We had all better hope the Cubs don’t miss the postseason by one game.
Because Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Mets was an eminently winnable game, and I’m not talking about the ninth-inning rally that fell short.
Where this game went really wrong was in the fifth inning, when Kyle Hendricks was within one out of sending it to the sixth tied and with only 70 pitches. Instead, it took him 24 more pitches to record the third out. With the game still tied, Hendricks had to exit and the Mets scored a pair off Hayden Wesneski and that, as they say, was that.
But wait, I’m starting in the middle, so let’s rewind to the beginning.
Which was a good beginning! Christopher Morel hit the first pitch of the game out of Citi Field [VIDEO].
The Cubs extended the lead to 2-0 in the second. Seiya Suzuki hit a triple past Jeff McNeil. Here’s Suzuki’s third triple of 2023 [VIDEO].
The Mets tied the game 2-2 in the fourth on a two-run homer by Pete Alonso. Honestly, I don’t understand why the Cubs pitched to that guy at all after the first home run he hit on Monday off Drew Smyly. He wore out Cubs pitching all year, including the series at Wrigley in May. All told, Alonso was 9-for-18 against the Cubs in 2023 with six home runs and five walks. They should have increased the walk total — maybe there would have been fewer home runs.
Anyway, then came the fifth, which in my view was decisive. Hendricks took too long to put that third out on the board. If he had finished the inning with fewer than, say, 80 pitches he probably could have thrown one more inning. Instead, Wesneski entered the game in the sixth, and McNeil gave the Mets the lead on his second pitch. Two more hits led to another run. The Cubs thus need two things: More length from the starters, and better middle relief.
The Cubs did have their chances. They had two runners on with one out in the seventh, but Morel struck out and Nico Hoerner flied to right. And after a scoreless eighth, the Cubs had an excellent chance in the ninth.
Well, that’s good. It’s now 4-3 and there’s nobody out. Jeimer Candelario singled and after he went to second on a disengagement violation — don’t think I’ve seen any of those yet! — Mike Tauchman walked.
Did you agree with the next call? Nick Madrigal advanced the runners with a sac bunt. That did put two runners in scoring position, but gave up an out. It was the Cubs’ 10th sacrifice bunt of 2023. That’s right on the league average of 10 (for a team).
In BCB After Dark, Josh said he thought about posting a poll about that play, but decided not to, because:
But I’m going to guess that at least one random Mets fan will drop in and vote “yes.”
Well. I don’t have that hesitation, so you can vote in the poll in this recap.
After the bunt, Morel was called out on strikes for the second out, but Hoerner walked to load the bases.
That brought up Ian Happ, you had to figure there was at least a chance of tying the game.
A fact about this game from BCB’s JohnW53:
Last night’s game was the Cubs’ 19,132nd since 1901. It was only the fifth in which they finished with no more than seven hits, their total last night, and one batter had a single, triple and home run, as Seiya Suzuki did. All four of the previous such games had been at home. The most recent was just 15 months ago, on May 7, 2022, when Willson Contreras did it in a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers. The Cubs had six total hits that day. The three games before that: Sept. 20, 1969: Jim Hickman, in a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals (Cubs had seven hits), July 4, 1983: Bill Buckner, in a 4-2 loss to the Expos (four hits) and April 29, 1995: Sammy Sosa, in a 5-4 win over the Expos (seven hits).
This loss dropped the Cubs to 2½ games out of first place and half a game out of the wild card lead, so it’s not the end of the world. There’s still a lot of time left, 47 games remain on the Cubs schedule and they’ve played one fewer game than the Brewers and two fewer than the Reds. There’s time to catch up. But they will need better pitching, and more timely hitting, than they had in this one.
The division race will take a pause Thursday as the Cubs, Brewers and Reds all have the day off. The Brewers will be in Chicago this weekend to play the White Sox and the Reds travel to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates. Those seem “easy” series for the Cubs’ divisional rivals, but the Sox did just take two of three from the Yankees and the Pirates split a four-game series with the Brewers in Milwaukee last weekend.
The Cubs, meanwhile, head north of the border to face the Blue Jays this weekend, this series is important to both teams. Javier Assad will start for the Cubs in the series opener Friday. At this writing the Blue Jays do not have starters listed for this series. Game time Friday is 6:07 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Apple TV+ (how to watch).
Should David Ross have had Nick Madrigal bunt in the ninth inning?
This poll is closed