The Cubs started the game with the Cubs tied with the Brewers for first place in the division. The Cubs were percentage points ahead at the moment, but that mattered little with a game to decide the sole possession of one of those two clubs. As it turned out that the Cubs time in first was smaller than the percentage points ahead they had been.
Jose Quintana tantalized us with what he showed as one of the most consistent starters in the AL for years. Quintana pitched an efficient shutout five innings of baseball. He didn't surrender a hit until the third inning. He didn't face a runner in scoring position until back to back two out walks in the fifth inning. Still Quintana kept the Cardinals off the board heading into the sixth inning.
Jack Flaherty looked like the real deal on the national stage. His fastball-slider combination baffled Cubs hitters for five innings. He battled command with three walks, but the Cubs only managed a pair of singles against the young righty. Flaherty wobbled in the third inning. Albert Almora Jr. singled and advanced to second on an error by second baseman Jedd Gyorko. Flaherty hit Javier Báez in the elbow with his fastball. Báez left the game, but the early reports are promising that the missed time will be minimal. Quintana struck out and Ben Zobrist flew out to put the rally in jeopardy. Jason Heyward walked to load the bases, but Kris Bryant was one of seven strike out victims to end the inning.
The Cubs threated in the fourth inning with two runners on and no outs again. This time Addison Russell walked with two outs to load the bases, but that meant Quintana was the final hope in the inning. He took the third strike for the final out. The Cubs put a couple singles together in the sixth inning. It never materialized into a threat with Willson Contreras being caught stealing. The Cubs didn't record another base hit, and sent the minimum number of batters to end the game.
The Cardinals Cardinaled to start the sixth inning. Quintana attempted to register a quality start. Harrison Bader hit a groundball that Kris Bryant double clutched before firing half a step too late. Tommy Pham followed with another groundball single, and Maddon had seen enough despite Quintana not even throwing 90 pitches. His decision to go to Anthony Bass was a puzzler, and the defense didn't help Maddon or Bass out in this regard. Marcel Ozuna hit a groundball that pulled substitute shortstop Addison Russell to his left. Instead of making the short throw to third to get the lead runner, he attempted to fire across the diamond to first. His throw was short and Rizzo was unable to corral it. That loaded the bases with no outs. Yadier Molina hit a tailor made double play ball that the Cubs were happy to accept. The double play scored all the runs the Cardinals would need with Bader crossing the plate. Bass threw a cement mixer to Jedd Gyorko that only resulted in a run scoring single to extend the Cardinals lead to 2-0. Bass struck out Luke Voit to end the inning.
Brian Duensing gave up a two out bomb to Matt Carpenter in the seventh inning. Duensing continued into the eighth inning. He walked Pham and retired Ozuna. Luke Farrell was called on to finish out the eighth inning. Yadier Molina dropped a fly ball in front of Kyle Schwarber that bounced right over his head. The end result was the Cardinals leading 4-0. Farrell struck out and walked a batter before facing Yairo Munoz. He hit a groundball single that Russell made his second errant throw on. It didn't matter as the Cardinals 5-0 run lead was more than enough.
It was a frustrating game, and there is plenty to be upset about in this one. However, little matters long term from this game besides the health of Javier Báez. The news as I said was positive early on.
Initial diagnosis: Left elbow contusion on Baez. X-rays pending though.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 18, 2018
"I'm good," says Javier Baez, who isn't sure if his left elbow will even need an X-ray and won't rule out playing Monday night at Wrigley.
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 18, 2018
Sounds really positive, right? Why can't I fight the feeling that this is going to be three to four days of the Cubs playing with a man short bench?
The Cubs lost three games on this road trip, and in each of those games the Cubs scored exactly 0 runs combined. They scored 26 runs in the other three games. It feels a bit like this guy shows up sometimes when the Cubs go to sleep.