With the Cubs eliminated from the 2023 postseason after the Marlins won Saturday, the team decided to make a flurry of roster moves and give Sunday’s previously scheduled starter, Justin Steele, and most of the rest of the team’s regular players the afternoon off for this year’s finale in Milwaukee.
The sub Cubs lost 4-0 and really, what can be said about this game? Here are a few things, because otherwise this recap would just be completely blank.
Drew Smyly, who started in Steele’s place, threw just 11 strikes in 28 pitches, faced six batters, and three of them scored. That was enough right there to win the game, because the make-do Cubs lineup produced only five hits, just one for extra bases (a double by Mike Tauchman).
After Smyly was mercifully lifted, the bullpen did a very good job, throwing 7⅔ innings and allowing four hits, three walks and one run, with 13 strikeouts. Luke Little, who would seem to be a strong candidate to be a leverage reliever in 2024, struck out four, and here they are [VIDEO].
So that was good.
Pete Crow-Armstrong went 0-for-3 with a walk, so he finishes up his first MLB season 0-for-14 with two stolen bases and will look for his first major-league hit in 2024.
Here’s one more highlight, a nice grab of a foul popup over the Brewers dugout by Jared Young [VIDEO].
Curiosity: Shane Greene left the “One Game Cub” club with this appearance, but has the oddity of wearing a different uniform number for each of his two games (No. 18 for his first appearance September 1, No. 51 in this game). Tyler Duffey, who might have been useful to the Cubs during the year but never got a callup until today, could replace Greene in the “One Game Cub” club unless the team decides to bring him back in 2024.
A factoid about the Cubs being shut out in their last game of the season from BCB’s JohnW53:
The Cubs were shut out at Milwaukee in their final game once before: 60 years ago, on Sept. 29, 1963, by the Braves, 2-0.
Warren Spahn pitched a four-hitter, walked one and struck out six.
Ron Santo made two of the hits, a double and single. Billy Williams and Nelson Mathews singled, with Mathews doing so after he took over in right field from Lou Brock.
Ken Hubbs went 0 for 3 in what proved to be his last game, as he died in a plane crash on Feb. 13, 1964.
Bob Buhl gave up a solo homer to Hank Aaron with two out in the first inning.
In the third, Aaron singled with one out, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Joe Torre.
Today’s game was the 11th in which the Cubs were blanked to end the season. The last, before today, was 9-0 at St. Louis in 2019.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts appeared on Marquee’s broadcast and I’m not going to spend time summing it up here, so here’s the entire interview for you to watch [VIDEO].
The 2023 Cubs thus finish 83-79. It is the third time in the 162-game schedule era that the Cubs have won exactly 83 games in a season. The other years: 1971 (83-79) and 2009 (83-78). Both of those were disappointing years from teams that were expected to contend. This one brought new hope for the future, despite the collapse at the end. And as rough as that was, just imagine yourself being a member of the Chicago Bears right now.
This isn’t the place or time for looking back on the entire year. I’ll have that tomorrow and in the days following, and of course we’ll have playoff coverage throughout October, and all the offseason doings around baseball as well as my usual selection of Cubs history articles and photo sleuthing. (And if you have old Cubs or Wrigley photos or videos you’d like me to sleuth, send them along!)
In the meantime, I will wrap this Game 162 recap as I always wrap the final game of the season, with a passage from the late baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti’s The Green Fields of the Mind:
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.
Here’s to a better 2024 for the Chicago Cubs.