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Cardinals 7, Cubs 2: That sound you hear is the Cubs’ playoff chances circling the drain

This was not the way we wanted this series to begin.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Marcus Stroman was one of the league’s best pitchers until the end of June. He was named to the National League All-Star team.

But then came a blister in London and his removal from that game. Including the game against the Cardinals in London, over Stroman’s last five starts: 6.46 ERA, 1.648 WHIP. Maybe that blister was worse than anyone thought.

It didn’t help, during Thursday’s 7-2 loss to the Cardinals, that the Cubs forgot how to play defense. With two out in the first inning, Patrick Wisdom let a ball get under his glove that would have ended the inning. Instead, Willson Contreras doubled in a run. There was anoter misplay in that inning, too, a ground ball that Christopher Morel couldn’t handle. Morel did make a nice play to end the inning [VIDEO].

Wisdom made another error in the second, though Stroman managed to get out of that with a double play.

But the Cardinals offense was too much for Stroman in the fourth. Tyler O’Neill doubled leading off and Jordan Walker homered and it was 4-0, more runs than the Cardinals would need. One out later, two more St. Louis hits ensued and though Stroman did strike out Nolan Gorman for the second out of the inning, Nolan Arenado doubled in the two runners. After a walk, David Ross had mercy and replaced Stroman with Michael Rucker.

So which is it? The blister still bothering Stroman? Or is this a real decline in his ability? Or a small sample size of a few starts? In any case, if the Cubs do wind up being sellers, other teams have to be asking: Do we want to trade for Stroman coming off this bad run?

Also, from BCB’s JohnW53:

Stroman had only two previous starts, of 224 in his career, in which he gave up at least seven hits and walked at least four, and he pitched significantly longer in both.

They were June 4 and 26, 2016, while with the Blue Jays, at Boston, then at the White Sox.

In the first, he lasted 5⅔ innings, gave up six runs on nine hits and walked five.

In the second, he pitched five innings, gave up four runs on sever hits (one a homer) and walked four.

This start was his 179th since then.

Yikes. The Cubs did score once in the bottom of the fourth. Seiya Suzuki blooped a ball into short right that got lost in the lights, and wound up on second with a double. Two outs later, Yan Gomes hit a triple. No, really! [VIDEO]

As you can see, that kind of hit would usually be a single, but it bounced past Walker and Gomes wound up on third. It was his first triple since 2021 and just the ninth of his career.

At 5-1, the Cubs perhaps had a chance to get back in the game, but Michael Rucker served up another Cardinals two-run homer, this one to Paul DeJong in the fifth.

The Cubs made one last gasp to get back in the game in the seventh, and it started with something historic — another triple by Gomes [VIDEO].

The ball hit right on the edge of the bullpen door and bounced far away from Walker, and Gomes easily ended up on third.

Well. Now I’ve got some fun stuff to tell you. Gomes had not hit more than one triple in a season since 2014, when he had three. Next, here is a list of all the Cubs catchers who have had two triples in a game:

Rk Player 3B Date Age Team Opp Result
1 Yan Gomes 2 2023-07-20 36-001 CHC STL L 2-7
2 Willson Contreras 2 2018-05-09 25-361 CHC MIA W 13-4
3 Steve Swisher 2 1976-08-11 25-002 CHC CIN L 10-13 (10)
4 Harry Chiti 2 1956-09-19 (2) 23-308 CHC @ NYG L 2-3
5 Clyde McCullough 2 1947-09-12 (2) 30-192 CHC PHI W 7-5
6 Gabby Hartnett 2 1936-05-09 35-141 CHC STL L 2-4 (10)
7 Bob O'Farrell 2 1921-09-02 24-318 CHC @ CIN W 7-0
8 Johnny Kling 2 1907-08-23 31-283 CHC @ BSN W 9-3
9 Johnny Kling 2 1903-07-21 27-250 CHC PIT W 3-1
Provided by View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 7/21/2023.

That is quite the list. Next, from BCB’s JohnW53:

The only Cub before Yan Gomes tonight to hit two triples in a game at age 36 or older was ... Jack McCarthy, on April 14, 1905. McCarthy, a center fielder, was 36 years, 19 days old — 18 days older than Gomes — when he did it in a 6-1 win at St. Louis.


Gomes scored on this infield out [VIDEO].

The Cubs wound up loading the bases after that. Wisdom was hit by a pitch — in the head [VIDEO].

That didn’t look good, but Wisdom remained in the game, though Mike Tauchman later batted for him in the ninth.

Wisdom was forced at second on another pop fly into short right that was dropped, but recovered by Walker in time to make the play. But then Miguel Amaya and Nico Hoerner walked to fill the bases. There was at least a chance for the Cubs to score some runs here, but Suzuki flied to left to end the inning.

And that was pretty much it. Gomes hit a single with two out in the eighth for a three-hit game, his fourth game of the year with three or more hits, but was stranded. Trey Mancini doubled with one out in the ninth, but the Cubs didn’t score there either.

One positive: Javier Assad threw four scoreless innings in relief, helping to save the bullpen for the rest of the weekend. He allowed one hit and walked three, but was helped out by three double plays.

So now we come to this: The Cubs really have to win all three games remaining in this series to, likely, avoid a third straight selloff. The way Gomes hit in this game, who knows, maybe teams would be interested in him, too. As of now the Cubs don’t have starters listed for Saturday or Sunday, but Friday afternoon, Justin Steele will take the mound for the Cubs and be opposed by Cardinals righthander Jack Flaherty. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Apple TV+ (how to watch).