This game might have saved the Cubs’ season.
All right, maybe I’m being a bit overdramatic about the Cubs’ pulsating 4-3 win over the Cardinals on a gorgeous afternoon at Wrigley Field, but I’m pretty sure of this: Had they blown a 4-1 seventh-inning lead and lost this game, that probably would have put the “For Sale” signs up in Jed Hoyer’s office.
Instead, the team lives for another day. And who knows? Maybe this one sends the Cubs on a winning streak.
The Cardinals scored first, on three straight singles in the second inning that loaded the bases, followed by an RBI ground out.
The Cubs got that run back and more in the third. Miles Mastrobuoni — no, I am not making this up! — led off the inning with a home run [VIDEO].
That was the first of Mastrobuoni’s MLB career and it was crushed! [VIDEO]
Congrats to Mastrobuoni. I hope gameday staff got the ball back for him.
Miguel Amaya followed that with a single, and Mike Tauchman doubled Amaya in to give the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].
Two outs later, Cody Bellinger made it 4-1 Cubs [VIDEO].
Hey, Jed! Don’t trade Bellinger. He’s a guy you should extend, someone to build around, not only for his solid hitting but for his defense — and yes, we are going to talk about defense later in this recap. First, this note on Bellinger:
More Bellinger courtesy of @ESPNStatsInfo: He has 5 HR on off-speed pitches this season, including today on Flaherty's knuckle curve. He hit just 3 on off-speed in '22. Slash line on PAs ending in off-speed pitches:— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) July 21, 2023
2023: .323/.356/.531 (.887 OPS)
2022: .144/.183/.244 (.427 OPS)
SIGN HIM, JED!
So the Cubs led by three after three, and Justin Steele settled down after that rough second inning, at one point retiring 11 of 12 Cardinals. He got into a bit of trouble in the sixth on an infield hit and hit batter, but got out of it with a pop fly caught by Christopher Morel in short right field. (More on Morel later.)
After a one-out single in the seventh, Steele was removed after 100 pitches (67 strikes).
And Julian Merryweather came in and guess what? He is still having trouble throwing strikes. He did strike out Lars Nootbaar, the first hitter he faced, but then issued a walk to Paul Goldschmidt and while Nolan Arenado was batting, wild-pitched both runners up a base.
Well, you can’t do that with a hitter as good as Arenado at the plate, and he singled in a pair to make it 4-3.
The eighth was worse. Michael Fulmer walked the first two hitters he faced and then was removed, after a strikeout, for Mark Leiter Jr., who immediately walked the first hitter HE faced. Honestly, this is just awful. Throw strikes please!
Well, Leiter did to pinch-hitter Alec Burleson, who hit into an inning-ending double play [VIDEO].
The Cubs didn’t score in the eighth, and it was thus up to Adbert Alzolay to finish things off. He recorded the first out on just three pitches, an infield popup, and up came Goldschmidt.
This fly ball by Goldschmidt could have been a disaster, but Seiya Suzuki ran it down [VIDEO].
That might be the best catch I’ve seen Suzuki make in his year and a half with the Cubs — and if he doesn’t make it, that’s likely a triple.
The next hitter was Arenado, who hit what should have been a routine game-ending ground ball to Morel — but Morel let it through for an error. Seriously, David Ross should have moved Mastrobuoni to second and put Patrick Wisdom at third base for the ninth. Yes, even though Wisdom made two errors in Thursday’s game. Morel is just not a good defender. Maybe he will be someday, but it will take a LOT of work.
That seemed to rattle Alzolay, who hit Willson Contreras with his next pitch.
Fortunately, he settled down and got Tyler O’Neill to fly to center to end the game [VIDEO].
You know, that was just a really good ballgame with lots of drama, though I could have done without all the walks. The crowd was really into it, almost no one left before it was over, there was some real good energy from the 38,819 announced at Wrigley Friday afternoon (probably around 35,000 in the house). The Cubs improved to 10-12 in one-run games with this victory.
Did that save the Cubs season? Maybe. If they can win the next two games, then we’re talking, possibly. Losing this game? It’s probably over.
One comment on Apple TV+’s broadcast, which I did not watch but did hear this: They apparently called Wrigley’s bleacher fans “bleacher creatures.” Nope nope nope, Apple: That’s a Yankees thing. Wrigley’s bleacher fans are “bleacher bums.” Please note that for next time — and maybe we should hope there is a next time, because the Cubs are undefeated (3-0) on Apple TV+ this year.
About the rest of this series, starting tomorrow:
Cubs will start Michael Fulmer Saturday against the Cardinals.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) July 21, 2023
He threw 15 pitches today in relief so will presumably pitch only for an inning or so Sat.
So... it’s a bullpen game. Drew Smyly should have been next up in the rotation. Why is Smyly not going? The Cubs haven’t said. Maybe he goes in relief?
Miles Mikolas will start for St. Louis. Game time Saturday is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.