For the record, I didn’t have any issues with David Ross’ choice to leave Javier Assad in the game in the ninth inning. Assad had thrown 48 pitches through his first five innings of relief and allowed just two baserunners, both on walks, and both runners were immediately erased on double plays. Just one ball had been hit out of the infield against Assad in those first five innings.
It wasn’t the wrong choice. It just didn’t work, as the first three Cardinals in the ninth inning smacked extra-base hits off Assad and the Cardinals held on for a 6-4 win over the Cubs.
St. Louis took a lead in the first inning on a home run by Nolan Gorman. But the Cubs came right back and tied it in the bottom of the inning. Nick Madrigal led off with a single and Dansby Swanson doubled him in [VIDEO].
Swanson’s homer, into a little corner of the basket in right, went about as short as a baseball can go in Wrigley Field and still leave the yard [VIDEO].
For those who don’t want the video, here are the numbers:
⚾Dansby Swanson! HR (3)— Home Run Report (@homerunreport) May 10, 2023
Go, Cubs, go!
5/9/23 @ CHC, ⬇️ 3rd
vs RHP Jack Flaherty
100.7 MPH / 32° / 359 ft to RF
Off a 90.2 MPH four-seam fb
▶️It's a home run in 14/30 parks.◀️
See this play in Gameday: https://t.co/c5JYhlESSa pic.twitter.com/pAvjPwPzcS
Ian Happ then walked, and one out later, so did Seiya Suzuki. Bases loaded, one out! Good situation, right?
Well, no. Eric Hosmer hit into an inning-ending double play. This would become a theme of this game. (Also, I have to wonder how much longer the Cubs are going to keep Hosmer around.)
The Cardinals scored three off Jameson Taillon in the third, with Taillon struggling through his entire outing, 69 pitches to record eight outs. Perhaps he came back from the groin injury too soon. More on this later.
The Cubs, though, did not quit. Madrigal doubled to lead off the bottom of the third, and Swanson followed with his third homer of the year [VIDEO].
Assad entered the game in the fourth and pretty much shut down the Cardinals through the eighth. Props to Madrigal for helping Assad out with this great defensive play [VIDEO].
Meanwhile, the Cubs were putting man after man on base and getting them erased on double plays. After Swanson’s homer in the third, Cody Bellinger walked with one out. That inning ended on a strikeout/throw-out-stealing double play. A leadoff single by Hosmer in the fourth: Inning-ending DP hit into by Christopher Morel. Another double play was turned by St. Louis in the fifth after a leadoff single by Miguel Amaya. And that was followed by the Cubs loading the bases, but Seiya Suzuki flied to left to end that. That was kind of a “double feature” inning — a double play AND loading the bases and failing to score.
With two out in the sixth, Morel tied things up with his first MLB homer of 2023 [VIDEO].
The Cubs again put runners on base in the seventh, loading the bases with two out. But Hosmer struck out to end that inning. Morel got to scoring position with two out in the eighth, but that inning ended on a fielder’s choice. In all: 1-for-7 with RISP, nine men left on base, and that latter number would have been much larger if not for all the Cardinals double plays. Overall the Cubs had 17 baserunners: nine hits, seven walks, one hit batter. That should absolutely generate more than four runs.
Here is the summary of the Cubs’ offensive woes Tuesday in one tweet:
Cardinals pitching has issued 7 walks and hit a batter tonight. None of those 8 baserunners have scored for the Cubs.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 10, 2023
Suzuki flew out to warning track with bases loaded to end 5th. In 7th, Hosmer struck out looking with the bags full to strand three more.
Then came the disastrous ninth, and the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning to end it. They dropped to two games under .500 for the first time since they began the season 1-3.
About Taillon: If he’s still not 100 percent, put him on the injured list and bring a reliever back. The Cubs have an off day this week and another one next week and they might, just might, be able to get along with four starters until Kyle Hendricks is ready to return, and as you read in today’s Minor League Wrap, Hendricks put together a really good outing Tuesday against Toledo: Five shutout innings, two hits, no walks, four strikeouts, 61 pitches, 41 strikes. I have noted previously that rehab assignments are generally about the process, not results, but Tuesday’s start from Hendricks checked both boxes.
One last note on Assad: Here’s the breakdown of his outing [VIDEO].
In the meantime, the Cubs will try to salvage the final game of the series against the Cardinals Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field. Fortunately, the Cubs’ best pitcher all year, Justin Steele, will take the mound. He’ll be opposed by St. Louis lefthander Jordan Montgomery. Game time is again 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Cardinals market territories).