In their first foray into extra innings in 2023, the Cubs got themselves in trouble in the top of the 10th, got out of it, then won quickly in the bottom of the inning on a line-drive single by Nico Hoerner, defeating the visiting Mariners 3-2. It was the team’s first walkoff win since August 20, 2022. And, courtesy of BCB’s JohnW53:
Monday night’s walk-off is Cubs’ 952nd since 1876, their 903rd at home and their 748th at Wrigley Field. The Cubs’ only previous walk-off vs. the Mariners was by 7-6, on July 31, 2016, on Jon Lester’s one-out squeeze bunt in the 12th. The Cubs had trailed 6-0 in the third inning and tied the score at 6 with three in the ninth.
Drew Smyly, who didn’t pitch well at all in his first start, was much, much better in this one. In fact, he likely would have had a scoreless outing if not for yet another poorly-played ball in right field dropped by Miles Mastrobuoni. That helped lead to a Mariners run in the fourth, the only run off Smyly, who struck out seven in five innings.
Leading to the question: If Nelson Velázquez is on the roster, why is he not starting in right field? No, I do not want to hear “Mastrobuoni hits lefthanded.” In my view there is far too much of being wedded to the platoon advantage by David Ross. He showed it again in the 10th inning of this game when he sent Tucker Barnhart up to bat for Velázquez, who had entered the game for defense in the eighth inning.
Enough already. Just put Velázquez out there until Seiya Suzuki returns.
All right, back to the game. Trailing 1-0, the Cubs put two on the board in the fourth. Ian Happ led off with a walk, stole second and went to third on a throwing error. Cody Bellinger’s double made it 1-1 [VIDEO].
Bellinger took third on a single by Trey Mancini and scored on this hit by Eric Hosmer [VIDEO].
Those were the first two runs off Luis Castillo this year after 14⅔ scoreless innings.
While Hosmer hasn’t hit for much power (two doubles), he’s batting .320/.393/.400 (8-for-25), he’s drawn some walks, and has played well at first base. That’s about the best-case scenario for him. If he continues doing this I’m perfectly fine with keeping him around. Again, a Ross lineup decision seems odd — why would you play Mancini at 1B and Hosmer at DH? Hosmer is the better defender. Either this team is going to be a good defensive team or it’s not, but management needs to make up its collective mind.
Smyly threw five innings and was lifted after 76 pitches. Here’s a breakdown of his outing [VIDEO].
The game remained 2-1 through eight. One reason was this nice snag of a line drive by Mark Leiter Jr. [VIDEO].
Leiter appears to be “the lefthander” in the bullpen, for now, since there aren’t any actual lefties. Leiter was good vs. LHB last year and so Ross is using him in that role. When Leiter entered the game in the seventh, Ross likely knew that Mariners manager Scott Servais was going to send up three straight LH pinch-hitters, which is what happened. Leiter retired two of the three, ending the inning. I suppose it’s working, for the moment, but the Cubs really do need Brandon Hughes back soon.
The Cubs got some good defense in the eighth from Dansby Swanson:
Nico Hoerner: "Amazing defense. That play Dansby made to get the guy at third with no outs -- that's just not a play many people attempt. Just a huge game-changing type of play." pic.twitter.com/ct5w4jeVWL— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 11, 2023
Right there, that’s one of the reasons Swanson is a Gold Glove shortstop. Never hesitated, knew he could get the runner at third, and did it. This kind of thing matters.
Michael Fulmer came in to close and with one out, Jarred Kelenic smashed a homer off the right-field video board, tying the game.
On to Manfred Man time!
Keegan Thompson had a bit of a shaky inning, but he got helped out by this impressive diving catch made by Patrick Wisdom on a bunt attempt [VIDEO].
Wisdom’s defense has looked solid at third base so far this year. That would be a big bonus for this team.
In the bottom of the 10th, Nick Madrigal was sent out to run for Yan Gomes, who would have been the placed runner. Barnhart batted for Velázquez, attempted to bunt, but struck out. While this was going on, Madrigal stole third, leaving many potential ways to score the winning run with one out.
Nico took care of that with this solid single to right [VIDEO].
As you can see in that video, the Cubs put on a bit of a light show after the win, showing off the new LED lights. What you didn’t see was this:
The #Cubs have a fancy new light show when they win pic.twitter.com/jupSzD7b5N— Al Yellon (@bleedcubbieblue) April 11, 2023
That’s pretty cool, putting the lights in the shape of a “W.” Nicely done, Cubs. Seriously.
As far as the new lights in general, they make a huge difference. The entire field seems brighter and more evenly-lit, and there’s no dark shadows on the players’ backs as we used to see in previous years. This image is from the final night game of 2022, last September 28 against the Phillies:
Look at how much brighter it looked Monday night:
The colors are truer, fewer shadows (especially in the outfield), the ballpark just looks better, and I’m sure it’s better for the players. Well done on the new lights, Cubs.
The Cubs have a chance at another series win with a victory Tuesday evening. Hayden Wesneski will start for the Cubs, also hoping for a better outing than his first 2023 effort, and his Mariners opponent will be Chris Flexen. Game time is again 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.