Catching fly balls. Throwing strikes. These are some of the most basic things baseball players have to do right in order to win. “Fundamentals,” they’re called by baseball people, and truth be told, the 2022 Chicago Cubs are not a fundamentally sound team.
A dropped routine fly ball and a usually-reliable closer’s inability to throw strikes were two of the biggest factors in the Cubs’ second straight loss to the Dodgers, 4-3 in 10 innings Friday evening in Los Angeles. And when a team makes those mistakes, a good team like the Dodgers is ready to pounce on them, and that’s basically the story of this game, the Cubs’ 50th loss of 2022.
I could finish there, but you come here for details and highlights, and so you shall have them.
Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson retired the first 11 Cubs in order. But Keegan Thompson mostly matched him, throwing zeroes for the first five innings.
In the top of the fifth, Nico Hoerner gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].
That ball was a laser beam that bounced off the top of the wall and into the seats:
#Cubs 1 @ #Dodgers 0 [T5-0o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) July 9, 2022
Nico Hoerner homers (5): fly ball to LCF (solo)
Hit: 374ft, 98.8mph, 24°
Pitch: 81.5mph Changeup (LHP Tyler Anderson, 9)
The Cubs put two more on the board in the sixth. David Bote and Christopher Morel began the inning with singles and a wild pitch by Anderson moved them both up a base.
Ian Happ doubled them both in [VIDEO].
At this point, this game is looking pretty good. Thompson is dealing and we’re in the sixth inning. With two out in the last of the sixth, Freddie Freeman doubled.
Will Smith hit a ball to right that should have ended the inning, but... oh, no, Seiya Suzuki [VIDEO].
There’s no doubt: Suzuki should have caught that ball. Period, no excuses. Suzuki is usually an excellent defender; he was a five-time winner of the Golden Glove in Japan’s NPB (and per this article, he won it each of the last three years), the equivalent of MLB’s Gold Glove Award. It’s mystifying.
A run scored, and not only did that cut the Cubs’ lead, it messed up the Cubs’ relief sequencing for the evening. Thompson had to be removed at that point instead of finishing the sixth. Chris Martin did get the final out, but then had to sit for a while as the Cubs batted in the seventh. Did that matter? Maybe, as Jake Lamb homered off him in the seventh — Lamb’s first of the year. A two-out triple had David Ross bring in Scott Effross to record the final out of the seventh.
If Suzuki catches that ball, not only is it 3-0 going to the seventh, but Cubs relievers get clean innings instead of having to come in with runners on base. Would that have mattered? We’ll never know.
Meanwhile, the Cubs weren’t helping themselves at the plate, either. Fifteen straight Cubs went down in order after Happ’s sixth-inning double.
Mychal Givens issued a two-out walk in the eighth, but finished the inning scoreless.
So it was up to David Robertson, who might have entered the game with a 3-0 or 3-1 lead with better Cubs defense. Instead it was 3-2, and Robertson could not find the plate. After a leadoff single, he issued a walk. A force play put runners on first and third with one out, and a stolen base made that second and third. It didn’t matter because Robertson then issued another walk to load the bases with one out. Mookie Betts followed with a fly ball to left deep enough to score the tying run.
Robertson threw 26 pitches, only 14 for strikes. You know, the Dodgers might be looking for relief help later this month. You might say Robertson didn’t pass the audition. And Robertson even had help from a bad call or two. Look at this — pitch 4 was a called strike:
As noted above, the Cubs went out meekly in the 10th, and it did not take long for L.A. to win the game off Rowan Wick. The Cubs ordered Freddie Freeman intentionally passed so that there would be runners on first and second, setting up a potential force play or double play, but Will Smith singled to left and the game was over.
This was a winnable game. Thompson was really good — here are his eight strikeouts [VIDEO].
It’s just that the Cubs don’t do the little things that teams have to do in order to ensure victory. Unearned runs aren’t necessarily the best way to look at defensive failure, but the Cubs have allowed 43 of them this year. Only one team (the White Sox, with 54) has allowed more unearned runs.
The Cubs will try it again Saturday evening at Dodger Stadium. Marcus Stroman is expected to be activated from the injured list and start for the Cubs. Clayton Kershaw will be his opponent. Game time is again 9:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Dodgers market territories).