After last night’s dramatic, must-win game the Cubs floundered tonight, losing to the Brewers 5-1. Losing four of their last six regular season games to the Brew Crew, the Cubs division lead dwindled to just one game this evening, in the midst of an impossibly long stretch of games that has proven this team exhausted.
Excuses are neither appropriate nor helpful, even if you want to feel for this tired team. In a game that could have pushed the division lead to a perhaps-out-of-reach three games, the Cubs failed to show up, allowing the Brewers to leave Chicago with momentum as they prepare for an easy schedule the rest of September.
Curtis Granderson led the game off with a triple to left-center, a fly ball that ricocheted off the top of the basket but failed to leave the park. He later scored on a single up the middle by Lorenzo Cain, netting the Brewers an early advantage in this crucial game.
The Brewers tacked on another run in the third, a sac fly by Travis Shaw with the bases loaded. Hendricks gave up three singles prior to the run scoring play, all with one out, and settled in afterward despite facing some trouble throughout this abbreviated outing.
In puzzling fashion, Craig Counsell elected to pinch-hit for Chase Anderson in the top of the fifth, ending his starter’s night despite four scoreless frames. While the Cubs had some hard contact off of Anderson, the decision to remove him felt both premature and reactionary — responding to the gravity of the game rather than the quality performance of his Opening Day starter. Though the Cubs responded in the fifth, Counsell’s decision didn’t cost the Brewers the game, even if it was the wrong move to make.
Tommy La Stella hit for Hendricks to lead off the fifth, delivering his league leading 23rd pinch-hit of the season, a weak chopper to second that he legged out before advancing to second on an errant throw by Hernan Perez. Two outs occurred before Kris Bryant delivered a clutch, two-out double off the wall in left-center to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Maddon’s decision to pull Hendricks, opposite Counsell, was appropriate given his place in the order to start the fifth. All told, Kyle put up a workmanlike performance of five innings, two earned runs, five hits, one walk and five strikeouts. He mixed in his curve more often than his scouting report would suggest, his change-up was as effective as it ever was, and most importantly, he minimized damage while keeping the Cubs in this game. While it certainly wasn’t a gem, it was an outing that gave this team a chance to win.
The combo of Randy Rosario, Jesse Chavez, Carl Edwards Jr. and Steve Cishek combined for three scoreless — albeit stressful — innings of relief, keeping the score 2-1 entering the ninth. Then Granderson struck again, his third hit of the night (this time off Cishek) clearing the basket in left center to give the Brewers a 3-1 advantage.
Joe Maddon then inexplicably elected to use Brandon Kintzler, who promptly loaded the bases before fellow struggling reliever Brian Duensing surrendered a two run single, extending the Brewers lead to four runs. It was an inning of frustration that will fan the flames of panic, even if everyone will wake up tomorrow morning to discover that the Cubs indeed maintain sole possession of first place in the NL Central.
Take a breath, Cubs fans and still believe in this team.
Up Next for the Cubs
Weather pending, the Cubs will travel to Washington D.C. for a make up game against the Nationals at 3:05 tomorrow afternoon. Len & JD will be providing the commentary on NBC Sports Chicago, and as always, you can listen to Pat & Ron on 670 The Score. The pitching match-up will be Mike Montgomery (4-5, 3.85 ERA) for the Cubs and Joe Ross (2018 Debut) for the Nationals.
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