You might feel kind of down about the Cubs after they blew a five-run eighth inning lead Wednesday in Houston and lost 7-6.
This article is either going to make you feel worse, or hopefully, better, because I am going to tell you about 10 games the Cubs lost in the divisional play era (since 1969) where they blew similar (or bigger) leads late in the game, or in some cases, even larger leads early.
This list is in the order of the size of the lead that was blown.
The Cubs led 5-2 entering the bottom of the ninth in Houston. (Does this sound familiar?)
Enter Carlos Marmol, whose wheels were beginning to fall off, though he had allowed just three runs over his previous 18 appearances.
He got the first out of the inning, then allowed a single and wild-pitched the runner to second. Another single put runners on first and third and a walk loaded the bases.
Brian Bogusevic, who hit that home run, played in 47 games for the Cubs two years later, batting .273/.323/.462 with six home runs. It still didn’t make up for that walkoff.
More Marmol for your viewing pleasure!
At this point Carlos was on his last legs as a closer. He’d posted a 5.52 ERA with 11 walks over his previous 16 outings.
But Dale Sveum gave him one more chance. The Cubs led 3-0 entering the last of the ninth in New York with fine outings from Matt Garza (seven innings, three hits) and James Russell.
Enter Carlos. Former Cub Marlon Byrd led off the inning with a home run. A walk, a single and a sacrifice bunt put the tying run on second base and brought up noted Cub killer Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
This was utterly predictable:
Kirk Nieuwenhuis was a journeyman outfielder who hit just 31 home runs in 414 career games. Six of those home runs came in 32 career games vs. the Cubs, against whom he hit .243/.378/.527. He especially tormented the Cubs in their World Series year of 2016, when he hit .333/.472/.762 with five home runs in 42 at-bats against them for the Brewers.
The Cubs led 5-0 going to the bottom of the eighth and 5-1 going to the bottom of the ninth. Yu Darvish had thrown seven shutout innings and struck out 10.
RBI singles by Brad Miller (another journeyman player who delighted in torturing Cubs pitchers) and Roman Quinn made it 5-3. Pedro Strop then hit Rhys Hoskins to load the bases.
That brought up Bryce Harper. Joe Maddon brought in lefty Derek Holland.
This was a “You have got to be kidding me” game. The Cubs blew TWO different five-run leads in this contest at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. They had a 7-2 lead going to the bottom of the seventh, gave up four in that inning and then former Cub Gary Varsho hit an RBI double with two out in the ninth to tie the game.
In the 11th, the Cubs scored five, capped by a grand slam by Andre Dawson [VIDEO].
What could possibly go wrong?
Everything, of course. Heathcliff Slocumb and Mike Bielecki allowed three walks and five hits, including a walkoff double by Don Slaught:
This is about where the wheels began to fall off from the Cubs’ attempted defense of their N.L. East title in 1984.
This time they blew a six-run lead (6-0 going to the bottom of the fourth) and a five-run lead (10-5 going to the top of the seventh).
The game was tied 11-11 heading to the bottom of the seventh when the Reds scored a pair off Lary Sorensen and held on for the win.
The Cubs managed to right the ship after that, for a time, anyway. They would win nine of their next 12 and led the N.L. East by four games with a 35-19 record. Then they lost 13 in a row, which is tied for the second-longest losing streak in franchise history (the team lost 14 straight in 1997 and also dropped 13 in a row in 1944 and 1985)..
This was about a month after the big selloff and the Cubs were having one of the worst months in franchise history, eventually ending up 7-20.
They scored six runs in the first inning of this game on the South Side, including a three-run homer by Patrick Wisdom.
Then the Sox started piling things on. By the fifth inning the Sox led 13-6, and going to the ninth were ahead 17-10.
The Cubs made it interesting, though. With a two out in the ninth, Wisdom smashed his second home run of the game off Craig Kimbrel [VIDEO].
That was fun for him because that big day was also Wisdom’s 30th birthday!
The next hitter walked and Ian Happ also went deep off Kimbrel [VIDEO].
That would have been a heck of a comeback, but Kimbrel struck out Austin Romine to end the game.
This was another “wheels are falling off” situation. After the Cubs’ combined no-hitter against the Dodgers the previous week, the team had lost five in a row and fallen out of first place. They trailed the Brewers by five games going into this one, the final game of a three-game series. The seven-run first was off Aaron Ashby, who was making his MLB debut that afternoon. It included a bunt single by Eric Sogard scoring a run and another coming home on a wild pitch.
Jake Arrieta, Keegan Thompson, Rex Brothers, Tommy Nance, Adam Morgan and Brad Wieck were the culprits who allowed 15 unanswered runs. Sogard threw a scoreless eighth, but by then it was too late. The Cubs would lose five more games in a row before ending that losing streak — and that wasn’t even the longest losing streak of the year!
After a very good year in 2001, the Cubs started out poorly in ‘02 and got worse, at one point losing nine in a row in May.
By the end of June, manager Don Baylor was on the hot seat. The Cubs had just been swept by the Reds at Wrigley when they opened a series on the South Side on a Friday afternoon.
At the end of the third inning they led 8-0. Corey Patterson had smashed a three-run homer. These are the Sox announcers:
The Cubs still led 8-3 going to the bottom of the sixth when Cubs pitching just lost it. Kerry Wood allowed a couple of baserunners and was lifted for Jeff Fassero, who issued a walk to load the bases. The next four Sox batters all got hits, capped by a two-run homer by Paul Konerko, his second of the game. The Sox led 10-8. The Cubs made it 10-9 in the seventh, but the Sox plated three off Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth to win.
I have a vivid memory of leaving this game, walking down the street wearing my Wood jersey, and hearing some Sox fans behind me yelling, “Cubs suck!”
I turned around and said, “I can’t argue with that today.” It shut them right up.
These were the “Big Red Machine” Reds, who won 108 games, and they showed all of that on this afternoon at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs blew two different nine-run leads — 9-0 after two innings and 10-1 after three. Tony Perez, Johnny Bench and Ken Griffey St. all homered of hapless Cubs pitchers Bill Bonham, Paul Reuschel and Joe Coleman. Griffey’s two-run homer off Coleman with two out in the ninth tied the game, and the Reds scored three unearned runs in the 10th to win it.
Mike Schmidt cemented his role as a Cub-killer that afternoon by hitting four home runs, the last one in the 10th was the game-winner:
That homer gave the Phillies an 18-15 lead. Even after that the Cubs tried to come back. Bill Madlock hit an RBI double with two out in the bottom of the 10th, bringing Jerry Morales to the plate as the tying run. But Morales grounded out to third to end the game.
The 11-run blown lead (the Cubs led 13-2 after four) still stands as the biggest blown lead in National League history.
Feel better about Wednesday’s loss now? (Yeah, I know. Probably not.)
Which loss is the worst?
This poll is closed
7-6 to the Astros, Wednesday in Houston
6-5 to the Astros, August 16, 2011
4-3 to the Mets, June 16, 2013
7-5 to the Phillies, August 15, 2019
13-12 to the Pirates, April 21, 1991
13-11 to the Reds, May 28, 1985
17-13 to the White Sox, August 27, 2021
15-7 to the Brewers, June 30, 2021
13-9 to the White Sox, June 28, 2002
13-10 to the Reds, August 11, 1976
18-16 to the Phillies, April 17, 1976