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Padres 5, Cubs 3: Another bullpen failure

David Ross still hasn’t quite found that winning relief combination.

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

After many Cubs games, I think to myself, “The recap has written itself.”

Not so much this one after the Cubs’ 5-3 loss to the Padres Tuesday on a chilly, 43-degree evening at Wrigley Field.

Was it relief pitcher failure? Yes, in part. Was it failure to bring runners home? Sort of. Defensive issues? In a way. This was kind of a mishmash of a game, so let’s start at the beginning.

Drew Smyly started this game like he started Friday’s, mowing down Padres hitters. A single by Jose Azocar with two out in the third eliminated any further perfect game thoughts, but the Cubs couldn’t score off Michael Wacha in the first three either.

Then, after the first two Padres were routine outs in the fourth, Seiya Suzuki took kind of a weird route to a ball hit by Xander Bogaerts. I thought that ball could have been caught. Instead, it dropped for a single. Another single by Nelson Cruz followed, and Jake Cronenworth tripled both runners in.

The Cubs did not waste any time tying the game, though. With two out in the bottom of the inning, Suzuki singled. Trey Mancini then parked a baseball in the bleachers [VIDEO].

The Cubs then took a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Patrick Wisdom led off with a walk and moved up a base on each of two ground outs. Nico Hoerner singled Wisdom in [VIDEO].

Smyly’s outing, while not as good as the last one, was decent enough, but the bullpen could not hold the lead. Adbert Alzolay threw a scoreless sixth, but was removed after allowing a leadoff single in the seventh. Brandon Hughes followed by issuing a walk, and then Azocar sacrificed both runners up a base. I’m pretty sure that was the first successful sac bunt we have seen at Wrigley Field this year. Fernando Tatis Jr., who continues to be loudly booed at every at-bat, singled in both runners to give San Diego the lead at 4-3.

The Cubs couldn’t score in the seventh or eighth, and Julian Merryweather was touched up for a run in the ninth. I continue to be unimpressed with Merryweather, whose spot in this bullpen seems assured only because he can throw 97+. So what, if he can’t get outs? I’d rather have had Brad Boxberger throw the ninth — he threw just eight pitches in a 1-2-3 eighth — or try Jeremiah Estrada in that situation.

Then the Cubs’ old nemesis Josh Hader came on to close the game for San Diego. It was his first appearance against the Cubs since he was traded to the Padres last summer. The first hitter was Nick Madrigal, batting for Eric Hosmer — a classic mismatch, and predictably, Hader struck him out. Now, THAT was a situation that called for Luis Torrens to bat, with some power, maybe Torrens could have taken Hader deep. Madrigal had no chance.

But with two out, Yan Gomes doubled and Nelson Velázquez walked, putting the tying runs on base. Maybe... ?

Nope [VIDEO].

Can’t win ‘em all, of course, but I can’t shake the feeling that the Cubs could have won this game. They’re going to have to figure out the bullpen mix, and soon. Here are David Ross’ postgame comments [VIDEO].

Interesting note: In the Cubs’ 23 games so far this year, there have been just six saves posted: Four by opponents, two by Cubs (Boxberger and Michael Fulmer). The Cubs are the only team, entering Thursday’s action, without at least three saves. The Pirates, of all teams, lead MLB with 12.

One of the best things about baseball is that teams don’t have to brood about a loss for too long, because generally there’s another game the next day. The Cubs still have a chance for another series win. Hayden Wesneski, who has struggled much of this year, will start for the Cubs and Seth Lugo will go for San Diego. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT. We are assured it will be somewhat warmer Thursday afternoon — sunny, with a high around 58. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.