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Marlins 3, Cubs 2: The hit batters just kept on coming

A disastrous ninth inning turned this game into a loss.

Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

I have a question, which I’ll get to in a moment.

First, the unhappy details: Michael Rucker gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, hit two batters, then allowed a walkoff hit that sent the Cubs to a 3-2 loss to the Marlins Friday night in Miami. Before Friday, Rucker had not hit a batter since August 3, 2021, a span of 70 appearances and 377 batters faced.

So here’s my question: Where was Jeremiah Estrada? I’m about to put his photo on a milk carton because he’s apparently been missing for a week. His last (and only) appearance since he was recalled when Jameson Taillon hit the injured list was 1⅓ innings of relief against the Dodgers April 21.

What is the point of having players on this roster if they’re not going to play? Why is David Ross tying his own hands by having essentially a seven-man bullpen, which is going to get overworked if he keeps using guys every day? The “Why is Luis Torrens on this roster?” question was finally answered Friday when he was DFA, but the “Why is Edwin Rios on this roster?” question remains open. Rios hasn’t played since last Saturday.

I don’t get what the front office or Ross are doing here. Is there something magical about Rios that keeps him around? The Cubs could use Christopher Morel, who at least has some defensive versatility and who (like Nelson Velázquez, who the Cubs are finally keeping in the major leagues) is crushing minor league pitching (.345/.447/.793 with 10 home runs in 22 games).

I just don’t get it. Maybe you do. And don’t tell me “Morel needs to play every day for development.” Looks “developed” to me — and yes, the team could get him enough playing time to make it worth having him on the 26-man roster. Velázquez should have been on the roster from the beginning of the season. Playing Trey Mancini in the outfield could have cost the Cubs at least one game.

Oh, yes. This is a game recap, so let’s do some recapping.

Velázquez gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the third [VIDEO].

Between DH and giving the starting outfielders an occasional break, Velázquez should be able to play at least four times a week.

The Cubs gave that run back in the bottom of the third.

Things remained tied until the seventh. With one out, Cody Bellinger tripled, and Eric Hosmer singled him in [VIDEO].

Marcus Stroman, who threw six strong innings, gave up a walk and two singles in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game 2-2. Overall it was another really good outing for Stroman. Here’s a visual breakdown [VIDEO].

Stroman was helped out by this nifty double play started by Dansby Swanson to end the sixth [VIDEO].

The Cubs had chances in the eighth and ninth. Swanson and Ian Happ singled with one out in the eighth, but Seiya Suzuki ended the inning by hitting into a double play. With one out in the ninth, Bellinger swung and missed at a pitch that would have been ball four, and you could see him walking away from the plate mad at himself. That was followed by two singles, by Nick Madrigal and Yan Gomes, so that might have resulted in a run.

Meanwhile, Mark Leiter Jr. and Michael Fulmer threw well in relief, and that’s a good sign especially for Fulmer.

Then came Rucker’s disastrous ninth and again, I ask, “Where was Estrada?” That’s especially true since Estrada is likely heading back to Iowa when Caleb Kilian is called up to start Saturday’s game in Miami. He can tell all his Iowa teammates about the time he spent hanging out with the pitchers in the Cubs bullpen, getting into only one game. Sigh.

Anyway, Kilian makes his season debut for the Cubs Saturday afternoon against the Marlins. Edward Cabrera will start for Miami. Game time Saturday is 3:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on your local Fox-TV channel (coverage map). A reminder that if you subscribe to MLB.TV or MLB Extra Innings, you can watch today’s game via those services if the game is not on the Fox affiliate in your market. Fox announcers today: Adam Amin and A.J. Pierzynski.