It’s easy to blame the manager when a team loses, as the Cubs did 7-6 to the Reds Monday night, especially when the game should have been winnable.
There are two specific instances, though, where it appears David Ross took leave of his senses.
First, why on Earth was Drew Smyly still in the game in the fifth inning? If you’re going to tell me that Ross left him in the game “so he could get a win,” that kind of thinking has got to stop right now. I don’t care if every Cubs starting pitcher has a W-L record of 0-0. The most important thing is to win the game!
Smyly had struggled through most of the first four innings, allowing four runs (three earned) in that span and throwing 76 pitches. Yes, I understand you don’t want to overwork your bullpen this early in the season but...
The second choice — and I assume this was a managerial choice, not the player doing it on his own — was to send Patrick Wisdom up to bunt in the top of the seventh with two runners on and nobody out in a one-run game.
Wisdom is a power hitter. Wisdom is not a bunter — he’s got two sacrifice hits in his MLB career. The sac bunt is going the way of the proverbial dinosaur in MLB anyway, and that’s a good thing. Through Sunday there had been exactly five of them in all of Major League Baseball. Why give up an out when you don’t have to? Yes, I understand Wisdom had been hit by a pitch earlier in the game, but, still. In any case, he did not succeed, so an out was recorded with no runners advancing, and the Cubs didn’t score.
In case you were wondering:
Patrick Wisdom underwent X-rays on his left wrist postgame, but he said the images came back clean. Said he was still "tender" in-game after HBP, but that did not play into the decision to have him bunt in the 7th inning.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 4, 2023
All right, rant over, let’s look at some of the highlights of this one.
Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson began this game with hits, and one out later, Cody Bellinger launched one [VIDEO].
The Cubs gave the three runs right back in the bottom of the first. The Reds scored to take the lead in the bottom of the second on a Cubs misplay, and I wish I had video to show you here because what the heck was Eric Hosmer thinking?
There’s nobody out and a Reds runner on first base, and TJ Friedl laid down a bunt. (What is with all the bunting?)
Smyly fielded the ball and Hosmer was in the general vicinity of... nowhere near first base. Smyly threw over, expecting someone there, and the ball went toward right field. Reds runners wound up on second and third, where Jason Vosler scored on a force play.
Incidentally, Vosler was only in the game because Jose Barrero had to leave the game with an injury after leading off that inning with a single. Vosler ran for him. This would become important later.
The Cubs plated three in the fifth. Swanson singled and Ian Happ doubled him to third. One out later, this infield out tied the game 4-4 [VIDEO].
Then Wisdom was hit by the aforementioned pitch, putting runners on first and second.
The bottom of the fifth followed, and we’ve discussed this above. I just wanted to note that Vosler, a former Cubs prospect, wasn’t even supposed to be in this game, and it was his three-run homer off Smyly that provided the margin of victory. Smyly shouldn’t have even been in the game at that point, but... the Cubs don’t have any lefthanders in the bullpen with Brandon Hughes out.
The Cubs did have more chances to score. In the sixth, Swanson doubled with two out, his third hit of the game. The season is four games old and Swanson already has three three-hit games and is 10-for-17 overall with two doubles.
In the seventh, the first two runners reached and then followed the Wisdom bunt attempt which we’ve already gone over. Luis Torrens eventually walked to load the bases with two out, but Yan Gomes struck out to end that inning.
In the ninth, singles by Wisdom and Hosmer with two out put the tying run on second base. Miles Mastrobuoni hit the ball hard — but, unfortunately, right at Vosler [VIDEO].
Sigh. A winnable game, thrown away in part by poor managing choices and in part because this Cubs team is not put together properly. How many times did we hear all winter that the Cubs were going to focus on defense? And that’s a good thing, and they did sign a couple of very good defenders in Swanson and Bellinger. Then why are Torrens and Edwin Rios on this team? They don’t really have positions, they’re just on the roster to hit. Honestly? I’d replace them with Christopher Morel and David Bote — right now. At least Morel and Bote are average MLB defenders and can both play multiple positions. The Cubs don’t really even have three outfielders right now. Oh, sure, Trey Mancini can be stationed in right field but he’s not really a very good defender and we saw what happened when Mastrobuoni, really an infielder, was used as a defensive replacement in right field.
Hurry back, Seiya Suzuki.
Anyway, that’s that for this one. The Cubs will try to even up the series Tuesday evening in Cincinnati. Hayden Wesneski will make his first 2023 start and he’ll be opposed by Luis Cessa. Game time is again 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.