Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
No, wait, don’t, I’ve got a game to tell you about here. The Cubs lost again Tuesday, 7-3 to the Astros, their fourth straight loss. You come here for a recap, and by gum you are going to get one.
What you’ve heard before is this: The Cubs go behind early, tie the game up, then can’t get anywhere with opposition pitching and theirs doesn’t hold up.
Justin Steele got touched up for a first-inning run, on an uncharacteristic wild pitch (just his second of 2023), but the Cubs got it back on Matt Mervis’ first career homer in the second [VIDEO].
Congrats to Mervis on the first of what we hope will be many long balls. More from Mervis:
Matt Mervis: "I’m just trying to swing at the right pitches. I got a lot of pitches in the strike zone today. I wasn’t very passive. I was swinging the bat and I felt good, so just letting it fly."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 17, 2023
The rookie went 2-for-4 with his first career homer. pic.twitter.com/OZFBgJJa3z
The Astros started teeing off on Steele in the fourth. I’ll spare you the carnage, but for a while it seemed like everyone in MMP was hitting a double off Steele. Four runs crossed the plate, making it a 5-1 game.
This game might have taken a different turn if not for this play in the top of the sixth. Tucker Barnhart led off that inning with a walk, and one out later Dansby Swanson hit a baseball deep into left-center field [VIDEO].
That was a fantastic catch by Chas McCormick. Only... it wasn’t. Here are two screenshots that clearly show the ball hitting the wall first:
The ball definitely hit the padded wall before it landed in McCormick’s glove. It’s very hard to see because the ad is white — that shouldn’t be allowed. Obviously no one connected with the Cubs saw that in real time, and the play was not challenged. It’s easy to show this to you now, with all the time I had to look at it, but given that the white baseball hit a white portion of the wall first, I can understand why the Cubs didn’t challenge. Teams have only 15 seconds now to challenge a play, and this one probably wouldn’t have shown up in that time frame.
If that ball is ruled properly as a non-catch, the umpires would have had judgment to place the runners. Most likely they’d have been on second and third with one out and Christopher Morel at bat. Instead there are two out with a runner on first. Morel struck out — but who knows if the pitch sequencing would have been different in a different situation?
I was watching the TBS broadcast of this game — nice work, incidentally — and they picked up on this right away. Since I wasn’t watching Marquee, I don’t know if they also noticed. Anyway, it was done and the Cubs didn’t score in the inning.
Houston batters teed off on new Cubs reliever Nick Burdi for a pair of runs in the seventh to pretty much put the game out of reach, though the Cubs did get those runs back in the ninth. Morel doubled with one out and one out later, Seiya Suzuki hit his third home run of the season into the Crawford Boxes [VIDEO].
That’s a good sign. After a long slump, Suzuki has begun to hit better. Over his last six games: .318/.385/.727 (7-for-22) with three doubles and two home runs. His numbers this season now almost exactly match his line from last year:
2022: .262/.336/.433 (.770 OPS)
2023: .266/.347/.422 (.769 OPS)
I think he can continue to improve on that, too.
This game really wasn’t going to be winnable with three of the Cubs’ best players out of the lineup: Nico Hoerner (injured list, likely back Friday), Cody Bellinger (banged up after a catch and awkward landing Monday) and Patrick Wisdom (awkward swing Monday, though he did pinch-hit) all did not start this game. It was one of those “insert other split squad joke” lineups, and it showed.
Bellinger, it was said by David Ross before the game, was available off the bench, but as the game turned into a blowout it was probably best to rest him. Hopefully he and Wisdom are back as starters in Wednesday’s series finale.
The Cubs will try to salvage one game in Houston in that series finale. Drew Smyly will start for the Cubs and rookie righthander J.P. France will start for the Astros. Game time is again 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.