By Richard Kagan
The Chicago Cubs lost a marathon 13 inning Wild Card game at Wrigley Field that lasted fours hours and fifty five minutes. The Final Score 2-1, Rockies.
Chicago didn’t have the offensive punch in these last two games of import, the game vs. Milwaukee to break the tie in the NL Central, which it lost 3-1. And, this Wild Card game, the first game of the post-season, a winner advances, loser goes home affair.
The Cubs lost and now it has, for them, an earlier off-season than anticipated. Chicago won 95 games this past season. They did it on a powerful offense and good pitching, especially in the BP, in the first half of the season. But, as the injuries mounted to the pitchers, notably Yu Darvish’s bum pitching arm, the BP was called on more. Of course, the disappointing season of Tyler Chatwood contributed to the BP issues. Chatwood could not throw a strike if he had a vacant batter-box. Kris Bryant missed weeks of baseball due to a sore shoulder. He came back with about three weeks left the season was finding his stroke at the plate.
In this 2-1 loss, the Cubs came oh so close to breaking open this game. Catchers interference lead to loading the bases for Jason Heyward who faced the Rockies’ starter Kyle Freeland. Freeland made the Cubs hitters look silly through 6 2/3 innings. Heyward struck out to end the threat and inning.
The Cubs pitching was very good. Jon Lester gave it his all. Cole Hamels pitched in relief and was strong. Kyle Hendricks was effective till the 13th inning. Pedro Strop pitched fine 9th inning. Strop was coming back from a layoff due to a pulled hammy.
Cubs fans were on their feet almost the entire game. The tension was palpable. But the Cubs only had six hits in 13 innings. And against the Brewers they had three hits. In 22 innings of key baseball, the Cubs scored two runs. If you can’t score you can’t win, no matter how good the pitching might be. And, in this case, it was very good. The hitting was the culprit.
Twitterers were calling for the dismissal of Chili Davis, the hitting coach. The Cubs hit 56 less home runs than it did last season.
Anthony Rizzo summed it up when he said, “We lost to better teams.” Javy Baez was more defiant. He thought the Cubs were focused too much on the opposition and not enough on playing the game. Jon Leter said, “Sometimes it is good to have the (expletive) kicked out of you.”
One thing is pretty clear, the Cubs will have a longer off-season to ponder what went wrong and what went right. Some say manager Joe Maddon did an excellent job with all the injuries to the club. He made some questionable moves and he made some brilliant ones.
But the off-season begins and expect some changes to be made in Chicago.