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Rockies 4, Cubs 3: Assad story

The Cubs starter had little command or control and the team couldn’t come back from an early deficit.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

One of the things that troubled Javier Assad in his five previous outings was walks. He had walked 10 in 21⅓ innings prior to Sunday, a pretty high walk rate. In those five appearances (four starts), he’d get in trouble early but pitch his way out of it, which resulted in a 2.53 ERA entering Sunday’s game.

The walk trouble hit Assad again in the first inning Sunday. He walked the bases loaded with one out in the first, got a ground ball for the second out with a run scoring, but then a two-run single by Charlie Blackmon made it 3-0, and a home run by Connor Joe in the second inning off Assad gave the Rockies a 4-0 lead.

That home run turned out to be the difference in a 4-3 Cubs loss to the Rockies, and even though this wasn’t a good game for Assad, the Cubs bullpen really picked up the slack. With Assad gone after two innings and 62 pitches (only 32 strikes), the game became a bullpen day. Michael Rucker, Erich Uelmen, Mark Leiter Jr., Manuel Rodriguez and Rowan Wick combined for seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and three walks and striking out 12. Only three Rockies got past first base after the second inning. So kudos to the pen for an excellent job.

And the Cubs tried to come back. In the third inning, Michael Hermosillo led off with a single and advanced to second on a walk by Christopher Morel. Both runners moved up on a groundout by Zach McKinstry, and one out later Yan Gomes singled them both in [VIDEO].

The Cubs made it 4-3 in the sixth on Gomes’ eighth home run of the year [VIDEO].

That ball landed on the back of the bleacher concourse not far from me.

The Cubs got a runner as far as third base in that inning. David Bote doubled one out after Gomes’ home run and moved to third on an errant pickoff attempt. But he, and Jared Young (who had walked) were both stranded when pinch-hitter Esteban Quiroz grounded to first.

That was it, unfortunately. The Rockies pen retired the last 10 Cubs in order, and Daniel Bard picked up his 31st save, which raises the question: Why didn’t the Rockies trade him at the deadline? Someone could have used a guy like Bard this year. He’s been one of the better closers in baseball. Perhaps they offered him around and found no takers, or asked too much, but... the Rockies seem to be making a game of not trading useful guys at the deadline.

One thing about Bard’s inning. Both of his called strikeouts were on pitches outside the zone. Look at strike three to Alfonso Rivas:

Sorry, Pat Hoberg, that’s not a strike. Neither was strike three to Young (pitch 8):

In the latter case, that should have been ball four. If the challenge system currently being tested in the minor leagues were in use for this, both of those pitches would have been challenged successfully. I hope that system is instituted in MLB next year.

Regarding Assad, he’s going to have to improve that control and command or he won’t have a shot at sticking around for 2023.

The Cubs’ record in one-run games dropped to 20-26 with this loss and, with 16 games remaining, they must go 11-5 to avoid 90 losses, and 9-7 to match last year’s 71-91 mark. Given that 13 of the 16 games are against teams with worse records than the Cubs currently have, neither of those is impossible.

They’ll begin that final 16-game trek Monday night in Miami. Wade Miley will start for the Cubs and Edward Cabrera will get the call for the Marlins. Game time Monday is 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.