This one was going to go the Cubs’ way, right? With All-Star Justin Steele on the mound and an opposing pitcher who had been hit really hard (5.17 ERA, four home runs) in his last three starts, this game was...
Well, nope, because baseball. Steele didn’t have it and got hit hard, and Kutter Crawford threw six one-hit innings, making Cubs hitters look foolish. The Cubs made it entertaining by scoring five runs in the last two innings, but by then the game was gone, and the Red Sox won 11-5.
Rafael Devers homered off Steele in the first inning. Okay, no shame in that, Devers is a really good hitter. Even though Steele got through the fourth without allowing any further runs, the Red Sox started hitting him pretty hard. The Cubs did pull off a nice defensive play to prevent a run in the fourth. Devers led off with a double. Adam Duvall reached on a rare Nico Hoerner error.
One out later, Jorge Alfaro singled and Devers tried to score. Ian Happ said, “Not today!” [VIDEO].
Great throw by Happ and perfect tag by Yan Gomes.
Steele lost it in the fifth, though the first hit, a “double” by Connor Wong, probably should have been charged as an error to Hoerner. This seems cogent:
The official scorers in MLB, under orders, continue to make everything a hit that’s remotely close. It’s almost impossible to make an error.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 16, 2023
If Tony Gwynn and Ozzie Smith played today under today’s scoring regulations, Gwynn would hit .600 and Smith never would have made an error
If this is really true, that’s a bad look for MLB. For one thing, it makes pitchers’ ERAs artificially higher, by allowing balls that should be errors to be called hits. I don’t know about “impossible,” but... MLB ought to revisit this.
Anyway, a single made it 2-0 Boston and two more singles loaded the bases. At this point David Ross probably should have had someone up, because Steele was running out of gas, even though he did retire the next two hitters.
That’s when Masataka Yoshida hit a grand slam. That pretty much put the game away.
As noted above, the Cubs couldn’t do anything with Crawford through the sixth. Mike Tauchman led off the bottom of the first with a single, and that was the Cubs’ only hit off Crawford. They did have other runners, with a HBP and four walks, but couldn’t get a runner anywhere near the plate through seven innings.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, extended their lead with three runs off Michael Rucker in the top of the seventh. Rucker got himself in trouble with walks, then Yoshida doubled in a pair and a wild pitch by Rucker plated the third run of the inning.
Rucker retired the first batter of the eighth, then Adbert Alzolay entered. After a strikeout, Alzolay allowed a single, then a home run to Justin Turner to make it 11-0.
That’s when the Cubs decided to wake up their bats, or more correctly, let them sit on their shoulders while Jake Faria walked four batters in a row, a run scoring on this walk to Hoerner [VIDEO].
This is what I am reduced to: Showing you an RBI walk with the Cubs down 11-0.
More entertainment ensued when Tucker Barnhart made his second pitching appearance of the season. He allowed a one-out single but got out of it with a couple of ground outs, keeping his ERA at 0.00. Hey, if the catching gig doesn’t work out...
Nah, not with pitches this slow, though as you see, Barnhart did fling one in at almost 75 miles per hour:
The Cubs decided to hit some more in the ninth. Trey Mancini singled with one out, went to second on a passed ball, third on defensive indifference, and scored on this single by Tauchman [VIDEO].
Tauchman had a nice day — two hits, three walks and two runs scored. His OBP is up to .362, which is perfectly acceptable for a leadoff hitter.
But that was it, as Morel struck out to end the game.
You know, if not for the runs scored off Rucker and Alzolay... but the game doesn’t work that way. If it’s only 6-0 instead of 11-0 in the eighth, the Red Sox would likely have had a different reliever in the game. Or had someone warming up in the eighth. They finally got Chris Martin up with two out in the ninth, but Faria finished the game despite throwing 65 pitches to record six outs. He threw only eight strikes in his first 30 pitches.
About this Cubs team... well, they really did kind of need to win two of three here. There’s still a chance to pick up ground before the trade deadline, but that time grows short. Now they could use a sweep of the Nationals and... well, that’s certainly possible.
Drew Smyly will make his first post-All-Star start Monday in the series opener. MacKenzie Gore will start for Washington. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.