TORONTO — Another night, another blown lead in Canada.
The Cubs’ Marcus Stroman and Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman locked up in a pretty good pitchers’ duel for five innings, with the Cubs actually taking a brief lead.
But Brendon Little, a former Cubs No. 1 draft pick (2017) made his MLB debut Tuesday evening in Toronto and had a rough go of it, and the three-run homer he served up was the difference in a 5-3 Jays win over the Cubs, the Cubs’ fourth straight loss.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Willson Contreras’ 21st home run of the season [VIDEO].
You can see a bit of it on that clip, but Contreras pretty much limped around the bases. A bit more of that is visible here [VIDEO].
Willson has been bothered by a sore left ankle ever since he hurt it in the Field of Dreams Game. Two innings later he departed for pinch-hitter Alfonso Rivas, and here’s the postgame update:
Willson Contreras exited game with left foot/ankle soreness. As game went on, his ankle felt "stuck." Bothers him most when running. He's been catching with one knee down to not put pressure on left ankle.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 31, 2022
"At some point you have to take it easy and do what's best for the team."
Contreras will get treatment again tomorrow and see how his ankle/foot feels. Thursday off day will give him a day to rest it. He noted how he wants to help Cubs any way he can while also acknowledging he doesn't want to cause any other injuries by playing through it.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 31, 2022
I would assume Contreras won’t play in Wednesday’s game either, thus giving him two straight days off. The last sentence is the key; no one wants to see him more badly injured than he clearly already is. Marcus Stroman summed it up well:
Marcus Stroman on Willson Contreras playing through his ankle issue the past three weeks: "Willson's a warrior. I've never met a stronger human being. He's so strong, like a solid rock. ... He's a true grinder and we're thankful for him." #Cubs— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 31, 2022
Right there is Contreras’ value to the Cubs. Again, #ExtendWillson.
Stroman, in his first-ever start as a visitor in his old home park, threw five solid innings. He allowed a run in the fifth to tie the game, then departed having thrown 88 pitches.
The Cubs took the lead in the top of the sixth on a leadoff homer by Christopher Morel [VIDEO].
That was Morel’s first home run since August 19 and broke an 0-for-18 slump. As Morel’s been kind of a streaky hitter in his first big-league season, here’s hoping that will start a new hitting streak.
This game all fell apart in the sixth, when Little made his MLB debut. He hit the first MLB batter he faced, Bo Bichette, and then he induced a little dribbler in front of the plate. Unfortunately, Little slipped and fell (pictured above) and his attempted throw to first was late.
Little might have been a bit rattled by that, so Tommy Hottovy came out to talk with him. That didn’t help, because Little’s very next pitch, to Teoscar Hernandez, was hit out of the yard for a three-run homer to give Toronto a two-run lead.
The Cubs did cut the deficit to one in the top of the seventh. With two out, Nelson Velázquez and P.J. Higgins walked.
Morel was the next hitter [VIDEO].
The RBI double made it 4-3, but yet another Toronto home run, this one by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. off Michael Rucker in the seventh, put the Jays lead back to two runs and that’s where the game wound up. The Cubs had baserunners in the eighth and ninth but neither got past first base.
Jeremiah Estrada, another Cubs rookie called up for this series, made his MLB debut in the bottom of the eighth. He issued a one-out walk, but recorded two strikeouts and threw as hard as 99 miles per hour. I’d like to see more of him, and perhaps we will as the calendar turns to September. Here is his first MLB strikeout, of Hernandez [VIDEO].
They opened the roof at Rogers Centre to start this game — it had been closed Monday due to a chance of storms — and there was a brief rainshower that you might or might not have been able to see on the TV broadcast. Fortunately for me, my seat was under an overhang so I didn’t have to worry about getting wet. The shower lasted only a few minutes, so they never made any move to close the roof, which takes about 20 minutes. Here’s an interesting article from 2016 describing the process. The Jays and Rogers Communications, the largest cable provider in Canada, are planning a massive renovation to the Rogers Centre that will begin this offseason.
That was the Cubs’ 73rd game this season decided by two runs or fewer. The team record in those games is 30-43, and in my view there’s one simple reason for that: Lack of shutdown late-inning relievers. It’s something (among other things) that Jed Hoyer & Co. will have to address this offseason. Here’s David Ross on Tuesday’s defeat (with a bit more video of Contreras limping on the bases) [VIDEO].
The Cubs slipped to 14-15 in August with this loss. A win Wednesday would give them their first non-losing calendar month since May 2021.
The Cubs do not yet have a starter listed for Wednesday’s series finale against the Blue Jays. It seems likely it’ll be some sort of bullpen game, possibly with Luke Farrell as an opener. The Jays have Mitch White listed as their starter. Game time is again 6:07 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Blue Jays market territories).