Just three days ago, BCB’s Sara Sanchez wrote this article which notes that David Ross and the Cubs are getting a bit too cute with their platoon lineups. The platoon advantage is useful, yes, but not when it comes to sacrificing defense.
The Cubs made two errors Friday afternoon and both led to Royals runs. Those were the difference in a frustrating 4-3 loss. (There’s one more issue that I’ll get to later.)
The teams matched zeroes for the first two innings, then the Royals put one on the board off Jameson Taillon in the third on a single, a stolen base and another single. It might have been more, except for a slick double play executed by Nico Hoerner, catching a line drive, then doubling Kyle Isbel off first base.
KC put one more run on the board in the fourth, and that was partly due to the first error. A throwing error by Jeimer Candelario after a leadoff infield single by Bobby Witt Jr. put Witt on second base. He advanced to third on an infield out and scored on a sacrifice fly, which wouldn’t have happened if not for the error.
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Yan Gomes doubled and took third on a single by Seiya Suzuki.
Patrick Wisdom’s single put Suzuki on third, loading the bases. Suzuki then scored on this fielder’s choice [VIDEO].
Wisdom advanced to third on the play, where he scored on this single by Hoerner [VIDEO].
That put Morel on third, and Nico took off to try to steal second. Morel then tried to score, and both runners wound up on third base, with Morel tagged out to end the inning.
This would not be the first baserunning mistake by Nico Hoerner on this day.
But the Cubs still had the lead.
That is, until the top of the sixth when Wisdom made an error allowing old friend Matt Duffy to reach base, which was followed by a two-run homer by Witt that gave the Royals a 4-3 lead.
If you’re keeping score — and I always do — that’s two of the four runs off Taillon being unearned. Taillon threw well, didn’t walk anyone, the only real mistake he made was Witt’s homer.
But the Cubs couldn’t do much offensively after the fourth. Gomes singled leading off the sixth, but the next three Cubs struck out. Hoerner walked with one out in the seventh, but was stranded. Suzuki singled with two out in the eighth, which was followed by a walk to Candelario, but pinch-hitter Nick Madrigal hit into a force play.
Cubs relievers did the job on this day: Michael Fulmer, former Royal Jose Cuas and Drew Smyly — who looks good in relief, incidentally — threw three shutout innings, allowing one hit and one walk.
Then came the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Hoerner singled, his fourth time on base on the afternoon (three hits and a walk).
I can’t tell on that clip if first base coach Mike Napoli was telling Nico to go to second, or whether he did on his own. But you can see KC right fielder Drew Waters get to the ball quickly and make a perfect throw and Nico was out by a lot.
This is not good thinking. You’re down a run in the ninth and yes, if you make it you have a runner in scoring position with one out, but if not... well, that’s what happened and now there’s nobody on and two out.
Ian Happ followed with a walk, which... well, we don’t know if that would have happened if Hoerner stays on first, but let’s say it does. Then Cody Bellinger is batting with one out and a runner in scoring position.
Instead, Bellinger is up with two out and no one on, and... the game ended [VIDEO].
The Wrigley Field crowd of 37,936 on a perfect weather afternoon did not like that call, but it was correct.
Seriously, Nico: You are not as fast as you think you are, despite having 30 stolen bases. That’s two TOOTBLANs in one day, too much when the fielders aren’t doing their jobs. And seriously, David Ross should think about tinkering with those platoon lineups from time to time, as Sara suggested. Should Ross have sent Mike Tauchman up to bat for Morel to lead off the ninth? Maybe.
In any case, what’s done is done. With 41 games remaining, it’s not the end of the world. But the Cubs really should have won this game, and now there’s more pressure on to take the next two in this series.
Saturday afternoon, the pitching matchup would seem to favor the Cubs, with Justin Steele on the mound against Brady Singer. At least Singer’s a righthander, so the Cubs will have their “A” defensive lineup on the field. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.
Should Nico Hoerner have tried for second in the ninth?
This poll is closed