The wheels aren’t falling off yet, from the Cubs’ postseason hopes, but you can feel them wobbling.
The 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks on a gorgeous early fall afternoon at Wrigley Field could have, and probably should have, turned into a win on several different occasions.
Don’t blame the bullpen, blame once again the inability of the Cubs offense to generate runs when they had many, many chances. They left 10 men on base and were 1-for-9 with RISP and there’s the story of this game. The pitching was good enough to win.
You’re a 36-year-old catcher. Yes, the ball didn’t miss leaving the yard by much, but after that it took an easy bounce back to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Gomes was an easy out at second base in the ninth inning.
Stay at first! The Cubs would have sent Miles Mastrobuoni in to run, and assuming the pitch sequencing stays the same, Nick Madrigal’s double would have won the game.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this game.
The game went scoreless through the top of the third. Justin Steele gave up a hit in each of those innings, but got out of them without incident.
In the bottom of the third, Nico Hoerner led off with a bunt single. After Ian Happ was called out on strikes, Cody Bellinger popped a ball up in the infield [VIDEO].
The D-backs shortstop and second baseman each thought the other was going to catch the ball and it dropped untouched. Meanwhile, Nico was sprinting around the bases and scored without a throw. That’s just fantastic, heads-up baserunning.
Bellinger stole second after that, becoming the Cubs’ sixth 20-HR, 20-SB player. The other six, as noted in today’s game preview: Frank Schulte (1911), Leon Durham (1982), Ryne Sandberg (1985, 1990 and 1991), Sammy Sosa (1993-94-95 and 1997), Corey Patterson (2004) and Javier Báez (2018).
But Bellinger was stranded.
The D-backs scored the tying run in the fifth. Corbin Carroll led off with a single and stole second. That was the ninth Arizona steal in this series, without anyone caught. Guess their scouting report said, “Run on the Cubs,” and they did. Another single scored Carroll.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the sixth on singles by Happ and Dansby Swanson and a walk by Jeimer Candelario (his third of the game), but Gomes flied to center to end the inning.
Steele completed seven innings, allowing six hits and a run, with six strikeouts and no walks. Here are those six K’s [VIDEO].
Really, you should win when your starting pitcher is that good. But the Cubs simply could not score. Julian Merryweather threw a scoreless eighth, with one walk and two strikeouts, and Adbert Alzolay a scoreless ninth, though he loaded the bases on two walks and a single. Alzolay recorded the first two outs on just three pitches and if he had managed to get the third out quickly, maybe he goes out for the 10th. But he didn’t, and now having thrown 23 pitches, he’s probably not available tomorrow.
Then came the Gomes play I mentioned at the top of this recap. The Cubs simply don’t have the kind of swift baserunners many other teams do, and guys like Gomes shouldn’t be trying for extra bases on plays like that.
Daniel Palencia threw the 10th and it was ugly, including a passed ball, a wild pitch and a throwing error on an attempted pickoff. The wild pitch scored a run and then Tommy Pham hit an RBI single that turned out to be the decisive run.
With a two-run deficit in the bottom of the 10th, Mike Tauchman was the placed runner. Hoerner grounded out for the first out.
Credit where it’s due, that was a fantastic catch by Gurriel. If he doesn’t make it, Tauchman scores and Happ is on second, where he would have scored on the subsequent single by Bellinger.
Bellinger’s hit did score Tauchman from third [VIDEO], where he had advanced on defensive indifference.
Unfortunately, Swanson fouled out to the D-backs catcher to end the game, and thus the game was all the words in the headline. Plus a few I can’t use here.
Again, this is not the end of the world. There are 19 games remaining in the 2023 regular season. The Brewers are in action at the time this recap posts. If they win they’re four games up on the Cubs, if they lose it remains three games. The Phillies face the Marlins this evening, if the Marlins win they move to within 1½ games of the Cubs. The D-backs are now one game back of the Cubs in the wild-card race.
However, it seems imperative for the Cubs to salvage the final game of the series Sunday afternoon and end this three-game losing streak. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and rookie righthander Brandon Pfaadt will go for Arizona. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.
Perhaps Sunday, the Cubs will score some runs.