If you are a longtime baseball fan, you likely recognize the headline to this recap as a tip o’ the cap to the late, great Yogi Berra. He was referring to late-season games when shadows crept across the field at Yankee Stadium and said, “It gets late early out there.”
I’m referring to this season slipping away from the Chicago Cubs. Winnable games over the last week turned into losses and a 1-5 homestand isn’t doing the Cubs any favors in attempting to win what is still mostly a weak N.L. Central.
Sunday’s 8-6, rain-delayed loss to the Guardians was yet another frustrating afternoon... well, evening... in the Cubs’ seemingly long march to nowhere.
The Cubs pushed back the 1:20 start to 4:05, and then it did not seem as if it would ever stop raining in Chicago. Finally, just before 5, the rain let up and the team announced:
If you’re counting (and yes, I was), that’s a total of four hours, 40 minutes of official rain delay over the weekend, and seven hours, 25 minutes if you count the push-back from 1:20 to 4:05 on Sunday. Yikes.
The teams matched zeroes (and hit batters, three of them) over the first two innings. And then Jameson Taillon got to work. Not good work, you understand, but the same sort of bad work that has been his hallmark all year. He just got hit hard. A leadoff single turned into two Cleveland runs in the third on a home run by Andres Gimenez. Two more hits, another Guardians run in the third. And then three more scored in the fifth before Taillon’s afternoon, er, evening was finished.
Five innings, seven hits, six runs (five earned). That’s just not going to cut it. Taillon had a decent start June 13 in Pittsburgh. In three starts since then: 8.22 ERA, 1.630 WHIP, four home runs in 15⅓ innings, .344 opponents BA. I mean... pretty much anyone at Iowa could have done better. The Cubs are 2-12 in Taillon’s starts and 36-32 in all other games this year. The latter record’s winning percentage would have them one game out of first place right now. There has to be some “shoulder fatigue” or something like it that could put Taillon back on the injured list, because sending him out there time after time after time to lose is hurting this team.
So it’s 6-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth and it’s starting to look like a replay of Saturday’s dispiriting loss.
The Cubs broke through on the board in the bottom of that inning. Yan Gomes led off with a single and advanced to third on a single by Trey Mancini.
The Cubs went out meekly in the sixth and seventh, and the first two outs in the bottom of the eighth were routine. Then Christopher Morel made it 6-2 with his 15th homer of the year [VIDEO].
Morel took over the team lead in home runs with that blast. His 15 home runs have come in only 42 games.
A four-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth seemed insurmountable. The Guardians used their closer, Emmanuel Clase, in a non-save situation, as he had not pitched since Thursday.
Jared Young walked to lead off the inning. After Gomes flied to right, two passed balls advanced Young to third, where he scored on this single by Mancini [VIDEO].
An infield single by Mike Tauchman advanced Mancini to second and both runners moved up and the bases were loaded when a ground ball by Nico Hoerner couldn’t be fielded by Josh Naylor.
Hoerner took third on the hit and scored the tying run on this sac fly by Cody Bellinger [VIDEO].
You can’t really tell on those clips, but it was LOUD at Wrigley Field for those last two run-scoring plays, even with half the ballpark empty after the long delay and the Cubs trailing by four going to the ninth.
Unfortunately, that was it for the Cubs. Adbert Alzolay threw the 10th, and allowed a pair of run-scoring singles to make it 8-6. The Cubs couldn’t do anything off Sam Hentges in the bottom of the inning and it simply ended up another loss. Truth be told, it’s sort of good that the Cubs didn’t score one run in the 10th because that would have been... 8-7 in 10.
I’ll simply reiterate that the Cubs must do something about the Taillon situation. It’s just a loss every single time he goes out there. A break from the action for a bit wouldn’t hurt, especially since if the Cubs stay on rotation, Taillon’s next start would be Friday against his former team at Yankee Stadium. An IL placement now would likely have him miss only one or two starts. If nothing else, a mental re-set would be useful. Hayden Wesneski, who threw two good scoreless innings of relief Sunday, could take the Friday start.
Things are not going to get easier for the Chicago Cubs over the next week leading up to the All-Star break, and in fact, we will likely know a lot more about the direction of this team a week from now. Four games in Milwaukee and three at Yankee Stadium will tell an important tale.
It begins later Monday in an afternoon game — and with the late start Sunday, the Cubs likely pulled into their Milwaukee hotel well after midnight. Drew Smyly — who I hope was sent ahead to Milwaukee Sunday — will start for the Cubs and Julio Teheran will go for the Brewers. Game time is 1:10 p.m. CT. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Brewers market territories).
BCB schedule for the rest of this morning:
9 a.m. CT: Heroes & Goats
10 a.m. CT: Cubs vs. Brewers series preview
11 a.m. CT: Cubs vs. Brewers Monday game preview