LONDON — All of you know the emphasis Jed Hoyer placed on defence — er, defense — this past offseason, signing Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger and letting Willson Contreras leave as a free agent to give most of the catching work to Yan Gomes, perceived as a better defender. That, and moving Nico Hoerner to second base, was supposed to make the Cubs an airtight defensive team. It’s been mostly the case, too.
Sunday on a very warm day at London Stadium, an error by Trey Mancini — first ruled a hit, later changed — allowed three unearned Cardinals runs to score and that was essentially the difference in a 7-5 St. Louis win over the Cubs.
Things started out well, as the Cubs put four on the board in the top of the first. Hoerner reached on an error. The next two hitters were out, but Nico stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. That’s when the runs began.
Ian Happ followed with a walk and Mancini doubled in a pair [VIDEO].
Miguel Amaya followed with another double — originally ruled an error — to make it 4-0 [VIDEO].
That was good!
What followed from the Cardinals was not. Marcus Stroman didn’t have it Sunday, and as you surely know, eventually left in the fourth inning with a blister, hopefully nothing serious.
In the second, the Cubs should have been out of the inning scoreless. St. Louis loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. But Stroman then struck out Paul DeJong, and should have been out of the inning except... oh, no, Trey Mancini [VIDEO].
I don’t know who the official scorer was, but he had a bad day. That was originally ruled a hit, and here’s one opinion on that, which I share:
Marcus Stroman is def going to tweet up to the pressbox to change that ground ball from a hit to an error. Mid-game tweet exception. Brutal call— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) June 25, 2023
I don’t think Stroman did that, but eventually it was changed:
The Tommy Edman "single" in the 2nd inning has been correctly changed to an E3. Three runs now unearned for Stroman, whose ERA drops to 2.47 from 2.74 with the scoring change.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 25, 2023
That’s really the ballgame right there. If the Cubs get out of that inning leading 4-0, maybe Stroman finishes five innings and can turn the game over to the pen. Another run scored off him in the third to tie the game, and two more in the fourth, one of which scored on a sac fly after Stroman left the game. It was 6-4 St. Louis after four.
The Cubs did have a chance for a run in the third, before that. Ian Happ walked and Cody Bellinger, batting for Mancini, singled.
Mike Tauchman, batting for Amaya, beat the double-play relay — but Happ rather foolishly tried to score and was thrown out. If he hadn’t done that there would have been Cubs on first and third with Nick Madrigal at bat and maybe... well, we’ll never know.
The Cubs offense pretty much shut down after that, with only three baserunners between the fourth and eighth innings, and only one past first base. One additional Cardinals run scored in the fifth off Michael Fulmer to make it 7-4.
The Cubs did try to get a rally going in the ninth off Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks, who consistently throws 100+. Madrigal led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch, where he scored on this sac fly by Hoerner [VIDEO].
But that’s where it ended, when Seiya Suzuki (who went 0-for-5) struck out to end the game.
The Mancini error was basically the ballgame. Here’s what he said:
Mancini, on costly error in 2nd:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 25, 2023
"I kind of let the game speed me up there and the game is 100% on me. I'm sorry to my teammates and all the fans, because it's been such a great trip here. It would have been nice to get two wins and I really feel very responsible for our loss."
Props to Mancini for taking responsibility, but the fact is that he’s just not a good defensive player and I think Bellinger’s going to pretty much have to play first base every day. If Mancini were hitting well you could live with that — because he could DH — but he’s not doing that either. At some point the Cubs might have to eat the contract. Maybe they could offer to eat the entire contract and trade him somewhere for a mid-level prospect.
So all told, the Cubs came away with a split in London, which is disappointing after Saturday’s win, but not an awful road trip at 4-1, and the Cubs are 11-3 since they were swept in Anaheim. I think they can keep this roll going. Last word from the Cubs on London from Stroman:
Shout to London for the love. Grateful for this experience. Can’t wait to come back and enjoy this incredible city! @Cubs— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) June 25, 2023
It really was a wonderful experience, not only at the ballgames but around London, where I visited the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey (a must-see if you ever get here) and other landmarks. As for the games themselves, a fantastic job by the organizers, who pulled off these two games without a hitch. Gameday staff was friendly and attentive and just overall nice people. Can’t say enough about them. And, thanks to a friendly shuttle driver, I managed to get back in an hour’s less time than Saturday.
Here are a few more of the sights from Sunday’s game:
I had one of those, too. Delicious.
A fond farewell to a wonderful city:
I’ll be back, for sure. This was my fourth trip to London and there are still more things I want to see and do. A big thank you to BCB readers eths and Limey Cub Fan Jay and others whose names I did not quite get for stopping by and saying hi — great to meet you in person, and it’s great that baseball is on the lips of people who live in the UK. There were many people I met who are UK natives who began following baseball for one reason or another — many in part because it was carried on late-night TV there — and fell in love with the sport, and the Cubs — and many other teams, a friend of mine who went around the stadium looking said he saw garb from all 30 MLB teams present at Sunday’s game.
The MLB World Tour was a great success and helps promote baseball around the world. May it have a long reign.
The Cubs will return stateside, and then conduct business at Wrigley Field beginning Tuesday, as they open a three-game series against the Phillies. As of now there are no Cubs starters listed for the set, though it’s possible Drew Smyly, who was in the pen this weekend but did not appear in London, could get the Tuesday start. Ranger Suarez will start for the Phillies in the series opener Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. CT. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.
I’m heading back to the USA Monday afternoon (London time) and there will be plenty here at BCB also — so don’t go anywhere!