The Cubs have struggled mightily of late to capitalize on base runners. After an embarassing loss last night, hope was that the Cubs might be able to take advantage of a pitcher who was making just his second major league start. Of course, as most life-long Cubs fans know, the Cubs always seem to struggle in this situation.
It was another maddening night of offense tonight, as the Cubs could not solve a 26 year-old rookie making just his fourth career appearance and just his second career start. In fact, Adam Plutko kept the Cubs hitless through six innings until Anthony Rizzo led off the seventh inning with a double. Thus, an exceptionally pitched game by Jon Lester was wasted.
There's not a whole lot to recap, so let's hit the "highlights."
Schwarbs and Javy Tags
The first at bat of the game provided the best highlight for the Cubs this evening. Francisco Lindor led off the game with a base hit toward the left field line. You've probably seen it by now, but Kyle Schwarber made an outstanding play running to his right to slide, cut the ball off, and throw a strike to second base. The placement of the throw could not have been more perfect, as Javier Báez was easily able to slap the tag on Lindor an instant before his hand reached second base on the attempted double.
Two batters later, Javy got to show off his tagging abilities again. Michael Brantley followed the Lindor at bat with a single of his own. With two strikes on Jose Ramirez, the Cubs got a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play. The throw by Willson Contreras was not perfect, as it bounced to second base. However, Javy caught the ball on the bounce and quickly tagged out Brantley to end the inning.
Jon Lester was the hard-luck loser tonight, throwing seven innings of one-run ball. The only blemish against him was when Rajai Davis (*that* guy) singled to lead off the third inning. He was bunted to second base by Plutko. Lester got Lindor to pop out to Addison Russell near third base for the second out. Michael Brantley came to the plate and lofted a weak line drive into the perfect spot between Báez and center fielder Ian Happ for an RBI single. And that was that. Lester scattered six hits and just one walk over his seven innings of work. He only struck out four, but controlled the game. It was vintage Lester, mixing pitches and moving the ball in and out to keep the hitters off balance.
Carl Edwards Jr. and Brandon Morrow did their jobs in the 8th and 9th innings to keep the Cubs close. While Edwards did allow two base runners, he struck out two in his inning, and got Edwin Encarnacion to fly out weakly to right field to end the threat. Morrow threw straight gas in the 9th, reaching 99 on the clock. He struck out the first two batters, allowed a single, and then got Davis to line out softly to Báez, who made a nice leaping grab in the outfield grass. Can't ask for much more.
This is Madness
As you all know, this was Star Wars night. Unfortunately, it wasn't Original Trilogy quality - or even Rogue One Vader tearing up Rebel Scum awesomeness - tonight was prequel garbage from the Cubs.
Most frustrating was the above-mentioned seventh inning. Rizzo led off with a double, and Willson Contreras reached first on an infield single to Northbrook's Own. Runners at first and third with nobody out seems pretty promising. At that point, the Indians removed Plutko in favor of Andrew Miller. That brought National League RBI leader Javier Báez to the plate - and he promptly bunted. Rzzo made a bad read, and was thrown out easily at the plate. Joe Maddon challenged the call at the plate because reasons, and a couple minutes later Rizzo was still out. Still, all hope was not lost, as Addison Russell had a chance. Miller struck him out on a terrible strike three swing. Jason Heyward was due up.
Hey, don't the Cubs have a guy that does pretty decently against lefty pitchers, but can still compensate for the loss of Heyward on defense?
Apparently not, as Heyward was left in to face the tough lefty, and ultimately (you guessed it) grounded out weakly to the first base side of the infield to end the inning. Cubs come up empty again.
To be fair, Almora would get a chance to face Miller to lead off the eighth inning, and he flew out to center field. Still, the seventh was a poorly managed inning by Maddon.
The Cubs would get a two-out single in the eighth by Schwarber, but come up empty before whimpering to the finish line by going 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth. Never fear, if the Cubs face Cleveland again this year, we know we've got them where we want them, having lost 3 of the first 4 contests in 2018.
The Cubs will welcome San Francisco into town for a weekend set. Lefty Derek Holland will get the start for the Giants against Kyle Hendricks. First pitch on Friday is at 1:20.
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