We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when--Cardinals 9 Cubs 8

I would like to start by putting in a request for the 2019 Cubs: PLEASE STOP PLAYING MICROCOSMS OF THE ENTIRE SEASON IN ONE GAME.

Ye gods. Where to begin?

There are gut punch games. There are kick to the groin games. And then there’s today--this was the baseball version of the Ivan Drago killshot to Apollo Creed’s head. All that was missing was Craig Kimbrel scrapping “Sweet Child O’Mine” and running in from the bullpen dressed as Uncle Sam to “Livin’ In America.”

Somebody get a GIF of Clark the Cub yelling “Throw the Damn Towel.”

At most, there are maybe ten at bats a year where Yadier Molina isn’t the most overrated player of this generation. And the most soul-crushingly depressing aspect of this latest worst loss of the year was that one of them took place in the top of the ninth inning today.

After more than four hours, five lead changes, and at least one genuine miracle, it all went to waste in two Kimbrel pitches. With the entire season riding on a most precarious 8-7 lead, Kimbrel started Molina off with a shoulder high fastball. But one of Molina’s few genuine offensive tools is an ability to make contact and he got around on it enough to lift it high and deep to left field.

It stayed in the air long enough for everyone watching to think “If there’s a God in heaven above, please not this guy...” And when it landed in the left field bleachers to tie the game at 8-8, you could hear the ghost of Jean-Paul Sartre crowing, “Told ya so!”

Hell is other people. Especially if those other people are Yadi.

That was the first pitch of the inning. The second pitch of the inning was another high fastball to Paul DeJong. This one leaked a little closer to the hitting zone and DeJong destroyed it to deep left center for a 9-8 Cardinal lead. At that point, it was clear that this had ceased being a game and become something of a modern-day Shakespearian tragedy.

JOE MADDON: Is this a dagger which I see before me?
PAUL DEJONG: Nope. ‘Cause it’s in your back.

Even before the ninth inning, this was already playing out to be the dumbest game of the season. And whether it was the good or bad kind of dumb depended on which inning you checked in. For instance...

The second batter of the game was Tommy Edman, the current Bo Hart/Skip Schumaker/Stubby Clapp clone the Cardinals have created to be obnoxiously good for 30 games and then disappear off the face of the earth. He tripled into the ivy in right center and scored the first run on a Paul Goldschmidt RBI grounder to third. Going into today, Edman had accrued 3.1 WAR in only 81 games played this season. So now we know exactly how many wins you receive when you promise your soul to Satan.

But in the bottom of the first with one out, Nicholas Castellanos lined a Dakota Hudson offering to right center and hustled his way into double number 58 despite a nice sliding stop by Harrison Bader. After seeing the result of throwing a strike to Cubs batters, Hudson decided to stop doing that. Completely.

Kris Bryant followed with a walk. So did Kyle Schwarber. The bases were loaded. It didn’t matter. Ben Zobrist then walked to tie the game up. Victor Caratini did the same to grab the lead. It turned out that the key to making Cubs hitters appear to be clutch was for them to never actually swing the bats.

So far, Hudson resembled his namesake state North Dakota--he had nothing. Jason Heyward finally saw a hittable strike and scalded a sacrifice fly to deep left. The Cubs  were 0-for-0 with runners in scoring position and found themselves up 3-1. It was the good kind of dumb.

The bad kind reared its head a couple innings later. After giving up a run on a Paul Goldschmidt sac fly in the third, Jose Quintana unraveled in the fourth, loading the bases and giving up a game-tying pinch hit to Rangel Ravelo who, to the great surprise of many, was not actually a Chico Marx character. Danny Hultzen made a brief appearance to give up a two-run single to Dexter Fowler and the Cards reclaimed the lead at 5-3.

It didn’t last an inning. Heyward led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk and one out later, Ian Happ unloaded on a first pitch from Dominic Leone that landed on the batters eye roof in dead center. “Good dumb” had made another appearance and the game was deadlocked at 5-5.

There was a brief respite from the scoring until the bottom of the sixth. For what’s seemed like the entirety of the past week, Nico Hoerner has been scorching line drives all over the ballpark, only to hit them directly into opposing fielders’ gloves. Because big league baseball is hard. Finally, on a middle-middle fastball from Ryan Helsley, Hoerner found the solution to that problem, smashing a go-ahead home run to the left field stands. It was the “Nico Hoerner’s face” of late-game at bats--I hope I’ll be seeing it in my dreams.

Again, though, the good kind of dumb couldn’t last for more than two batters. After an effective sixth inning, Kyle Ryan was tasked with getting through the Cards middle of the order in the seventh. Paul Goldschmidt led off by working a walk on a 3-2 slider. Then Marcell Ozuna absolutely golfed a pitch that seemed like it was about to scrape the ground for a two-run homer to give the Cards a sudden shocking 7-6 cushion.

At that point, you’d be forgiven for thinking, “OK, I have seen the dumbest thing this game’s going to show me. There is nothing that’s going to top the sheer stupid absurdity of that swing.” You would be oh-so-very wrong.

For in the bottom of the seventh, Ben Zobrist lined a ground rule double to right field with one out. It didn’t seem that promising, though, because the pitcher’s spot had been double switched in behind him. And up to the plate stepped pinch hitter extraordinaire...Tony Kemp. I have no idea why Joe Maddon keeps using Kemp to hit as often as he does. I can only speculate that the front office told him “We’ve traded for that short guy from the Astros” and Joe has been operating under the misconception that Kemp is actually José Altuve.

Regardless, the predictable happened and Kemp meekly struck out on three pitches...except...second base umpire Bill Welke called a balk on Cards reliever Giovanny Gallegos which moved Zobrist to third and gave Kemp new life. OK, this probably meant Kemp would be striking out in four pitches instead...except...EXCEPT...

Kemp unloaded on the very next pitch. The only conjecture I can come up with is that he somehow found a way to harness the energy of our collective doubt in his hitting ability and took it out on a baseball that had the misfortune to leak out over the plate. It launched off his bat all the way to dead center field, landing just to the left of the juniper bushes. And just like it was the first day Kemp did a backflip during pre-game windsprints, the collective reaction was an overjoyed “wait...you can do THAT?!” We had been saved! The Cubs retook the lead at 8-7! The season wasn’t dead! The good kind of dumb was going to win after all!

SPOILER ALERT: No it wasn’t. Just a tease. Yes it was. No it wasn’t.

And now, we’re left with an uneasy feeling lingering somewhere between depression and acceptance. There’s another week of games to go and the one genuinely admirable quality of this team is that they still won’t give up. But for the love of all that is good and pure, all I ask is going forward is this: please let today’s game be the actual worst loss of the season. Because this one was the best example of what’s become the overarching theme of the last six months...

The 2019 Cubs: We can’t have nice things.

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  • Excellent write up. Yeah, that game was brutal. Screw Yadi.

    Theo better sharpen his pencils this offseason. There is work to be done! The to-do list is long, but use a pen for this action item: “Fix the bullpen.”

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    You can say screw Yadi, but he did 2 games in a row what the Cubs couldn’t do in a tie or one run deficit- He got a big hit. No need to go into the horrendous pitching, starting with Quintana.

  • In reply to Ronson54:

    The Cubs came back from a tie or one run deficit four separate times. People like to complain about the offense, and it’s no doubt inconsistent. But to my untrained eye, the biggest problems are pitching, defense, and sloppy play.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    I actually like Yadi. I hate him because he's one of them, but if he were a Cub we'd worship him. He plays the game to win for his team. I respect that.

  • A new low.

  • I was incensed reading the PECOTA predictions for the Cubs this past winter. While the team will finish over .500, I am loath to concede it looks like PECOTA was right in principle. The Cubs look to finish 3rd.

  • Saw the after-game show with Maddon and he didn't seem to care. Just his usual and casual (boy we lost a close one). Can't wait for his departure. Maybe the team will have some life next year.

  • In reply to veteran:

    How do you want him to react?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Maybe with some accountability towards whatever question he was asked, in the first place.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    What accountability you talking about. Everyone knows that they hit 2 96 mph fastballs for HRs. You need to make this statement after games 25,26 or 27. 156 it isn’t going to help to throw ppl under the bus.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Then why do press conferences? If you can't handle the heat, stay away from the kitchen.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Yesterday press conference what would you say???? What “Heat” do you want delivered????

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I ran into a retired Cubs scout in Wal-Mart one afternoon, so I have no idea as to how much weight to give this, but he stated that Maddon didn't much care, because he thought he should have been offered a new contract.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He can do Binny’s commercials instead. Doesn’t seem interested in managing, time for the RV?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That's funny. That is exactly why he wasn't offered a new contract.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I am sure Maddon thinks that. Why wouldn’t he??? You can make a case either way. But I don’t see a manager who doesn’t care. I still believe he is doing what he can to put cubs in a position to win.

  • In reply to veteran:

    The team lacks life for sure, a change of leadership is eminent.

  • Great write up Ken. Exactly how I felt listening to the game. Heading to Chicago for tomorrow’s game. Hopefully the rain stays away and the Cubs can win the last game at Wrigley for 2019. Go Cubs

  • What's the probability of Kimbrel being a lights out closer next year?

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    One never knows about free agents. Kimbrel was the best closer out there, and the Cubs needed one desperately. Jed reeled him in. It was the right move. I don't think that can fault the front office if Kimbrel is not what he has mostly always been.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Kimbrel made me nervous, I said it here often at the time because we've seen late signers before. Only Dallas Keuchel has been good out of the last few of those guys. Also after Kimbrel's shaky end of the season last year he needed a ST. The good news is that his velo is ok and most of this seems to be nagging injuries. I'm not terribly worried about next year.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Yeah TC, I agree. I'm not going to get too worried about Kimbrel effectiveness until we see what we have, after a full spring training. Also I think many of the perceived bullpen woes, were a result of the first half ineffectiveness of Strop and others. Once Wick, Wieck, and Phelps got here - to me, it seemed to cause me less concern.

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    The best part of today was your write up Ken. I'd like to win tomorrow to honor Gary Pressy, but as for this team--meh.
    We need to take pitches, play defense, pitch deeper into games and then have a good bullpen that isn't worn out by the second half of the season.
    There will be plenty of time to discuss next year, but right now we have Wick and a hopefully healthy Kimbrel and Javy next year. Oh, and we need to get more athletic, and that means faster. Look at how Edman can hit it in the gap and get a triple out of it, or how Bader can go get it.
    Nico is a good player, but he's a 2nd baseman and has average speed but makes good contact.
    We're going to get a higher draft pick next year and maybe we can find a Fleherty there.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Nico 'has average speed'?

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    In reply to cubbustible:

    I think he's rated a 55 for his run on a 20-80 scale. So maybe he's a bit above, but not like a speedster.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I'd say running 14.6 on an inside the park HR this year at Tennessee is quite a bit more than average speed.
    Plus you can't steal first base, no matter how quick you are - regarding Bader. Baders career OPS is that of Almora.
    I'll take more LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres with their average speed, because they are complete ballplayers. Although the jury may still be out, on Edman.

  • 186 days until opening day.

  • MIL beat PIT. No change in the good Magic Numbers, only the bad:

    Division: 14
    Playoffs (WC): 11

    And the not-so-magic (Elimination) Number (division): 2

  • NBC 5 Sportscaster , reporting on the Cubbie's loss, opened with this "Braveheart" quote: " We all end up dead. It's just a question of how and why?"

    OUCH!

  • In reply to 1908Cubbie:

    It's an appropriate quote. Something is amiss. The brain thrust' s ability to identify it and, If the stars alien in the hot stove, to fix it, will determine 2020 success.

  • I guess I would rather have it this way than losing out on the last day of the year like last year....just sure didn’t expect it to go like this though.....
    Still have a chance to hurt the Cardinals......that is always a good thing....

  • After the ninth inning, I couldn't help but flash on Soler's late season 2014 Busch Stadium ringing dinger, and the accompanying message: "Dirtybirds move over, it's now the Cubs' turn"....

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Soler is having a huge season in KC, 45 home runs and 111 rbi’s thus far. Montgomery is pitching well as starter.
    Tommy LaStella and Gleyber Torres were all stars this season. Eloy Jimenez is having a great rookie season. Candaleria is solid in Detroit.

    What do we have to show in return?

    The demise of Carl Edwards Jr, Addison Russell, Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, and others under Maddon is also concerning.

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