Javier Assad had been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball over the last few weeks.
Meanwhile, Arizona’s Ryne Nelson had pitched so poorly that he had been demoted to Triple-A about a month ago.
Easy win for the Cubs, right? Nope, trap game. Assad didn’t pitch too badly, but got victimized by a pair of home runs, and Nelson no-hit the Cubs until the fifth inning — because baseball, of course. The result was a 6-2 Cubs loss to the D-backs on a coolish early fall evening at Wrigley Field.
Tommy Pham homered off Assad in the top of the first. The Cubs had two baserunners in the bottom of the inning, both on walks, but a double play in between the bases on balls took away any real scoring chance.
A single and another Arizona home run, this one by Ketel Marte, gave the D-backs a 3-0 lead in the third. That might have been three runs, but for this nice throw by Ian Happ [VIDEO].
Interesting baserunning there, too.
The Cubs finally broke up the no-hit bid with one out in the fifth. Seiya Suzuki tripled to right, then scored on this fly ball by Jeimer Candelario [VIDEO].
It’s now 3-1 in the fifth, which normally does not feel like an insurmountable lead, but... the Cubsbats went mostly silent. Including Candelario’s fly ball, 12 of the next 13 Cubs went down pretty meekly, the exception a two-out double by Nico Hoerner in the sixth.
Assad was removed with one out in the sixth having allowed seven hits and three runs. He had no strikeouts and just seemed a bit off the whole evening.
Keegan Thompson got out of the sixth with a double play and threw a scoreless seventh, but issued a leadoff walk in the eighth, followed by Pham’s second home run of the game. Now it’s 5-1 and that lead seemed more or less insurmountable. The D-backs added a run in the ninth off Hayden Wesneski.
The Cubs attempted to mount a rally in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Hoerner singled, and one out later, Cody Bellinger singled him to second.
Dansby Swanson’s single scored Hoerner to make it 6-2 [VIDEO].
That had the effect of forcing D-backs manager Torey Lovullo to bring in his closer, Paul Sewald, which he probably didn’t think he’d have to do. Sewald retired Suzuki on a ground ball to end the game.
Hey, these kinds of games happen even to good teams, and the Cubs are a good team. They just looked flat all night, although I will say they hit a lot of baseballs hard that all went for outs, including the final out hit by Suzuki:
A fitting way for the game to end for the Cubs on another hard-hit ball with nothing to show for it: a 101.1 mph exit velo and .580 xBA on Suzuki's grounder to third with runners on the corners. https://t.co/4m5wiRIFlt— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 8, 2023
The loss dropped the Cubs to two games behind the Brewers in the division race and the same distance behind the Phillies for the top wild card spot. Both Milwaukee and Philadelphia were idle Thursday. Now the Cubs will have to win three of four in this series the hard way.
And today is another day! Jameson Taillon will start for the Cubs and Zac Gallen goes for the Diamondbacks. Maybe it’ll be a “trap game” for Arizona! Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and D-backs market territories).