Baseball

What Could’ve Been – Cubs/Cardinals Series Review: Cubs Lose Series 3-1

What once could’ve been two teams fighting for the top of the division just a few months ago has now devolved into two teams with no playoff hopes playing a meaningless series of late-July baseball. There were SOME entertaining moments throughout the series, although the bar may be set quite low on what Cubs fans consider “entertainment.” A miraculous come-from-behind win and watching our young pitchers in Adbert Alzolay, Dillon Maples and Keegan Thompson (plus veteran Kyle Hendricks) is never a bad thing. However, we did see a lot of bad things this series too, as we still can’t hit, our bullpen is exhausted and Kris Bryant is once again injured. Let’s break it down and move on.

July 19, 2021
Cubs 3, Cardinals 8
WP: Woodford (2-1) LP: Mills (4-3)
Box Score

In classic Cubs fashion, there was no offense to be had for the first half of the game. Alec Mills was the starter and he looked good about one time through the lineup before things really began to unravel. In the 3rd, he allowed a single and a groundout that sent a runner to second. Then Dylan Carlson singled as Mills ducked from the ball instead of reaching his glove out and catching it, my pet peeve that pitchers nowadays enjoy doing that nearly always gives up a base hit. It ended up scoring the Cardinals’ first of many runs.

Things got much worse at the bottom of the next inning, where the Cardinals ended up scoring 4 runs on a plethora of fielding errors and singles and fielder’s choices where the entire team more or less imploded together. I don’t even want to describe how ugly it was. Javy Baez committed two of the three errors in the inning, which does nothing but plummet his trade value, if your current focus is solely on the future and getting some new core players. Mills threw 32 pitches in this inning alone, which promptly ended this outing as soon as the final out was called.

The 5th inning saw offense from some surprising faces, as it was Patrick Wisdom, Rafael Ortega and Eric Sogard who singled three times in a row to load the bases in a no-out situation. It was Ian Happ up to pinch-hit, and unfortunately he was hitting more like himself, grounding into a double play. The Cubs ended the inning only able to score one measly runner in Wisdom. It wouldn’t be enough, as the Cardinals would score three more runners in the bottom of the 6th to make the game all but over.

Every Cubs pitcher allowed a hit this game, with our bullpen not being as strong as they usually are on that front. However, it was Mills and Keegan Thompson who gave up all the runs. The bullpen allowed no walks and were responsible for four of the ten strikeouts. This game was definitely a forgettable one.

July 20, 2021
Cubs 7, Cardinals 6
WP: Maples (1-0) LP: Reyes (5-4)
Box Score

This was some crazy baseball, coming from the most unexpected team at the most unexpected time. For eight straight innings, the Cubs’ bats were almost completely dead, only being able to produce one measly run in the 2nd inning, and only getting three hits total for the first eight innings of the game. The Cardinals quickly took control of the game for the next few innings after that initial Cubs run, giving them a commanding 6-1 lead going into the 7th inning that made everyone want to change the channel. (If you didn’t, you were about to get some crazy baseball.)

It felt like just one final inning before the inevitable loss until it was time for the Cardinals to replace Justin Miller with Luis Garcia in the 9th inning. Things went off the rails pretty fast. Despite Wisdom striking out to start the inning, the third strike ended up being a wild pitch that allowed him to make it to first base. Hoerner moved things along with a single that sent him to third base when the Cardinals committed a throwing error on the play.

Jake Marisnick getting walked loaded the bases, causing the Cards to yank Garcia in exchange for Alex Reyes, Sergio Alcantara walked after him to score Wisdom to make it 6-2 Cardinals.

Willson Contreras struck out next, but he can be excused considering he had one of only three Cubs hits all game before the 9th. Anthony Rizzo walked again, scoring another runner to make it 6-2. Then Baez hit a ground ball single that scored two runners, and Ian Happ of all people came in to get the double that scored the winning run for the Cubs. It was a complete whirlwind of an inning that ended, amusingly, the same way it started: with Wisdom striking out swinging.

Dillon Maples gets his first win of the season in just his second appearance from a near-month-long stint on the IL, and he looked pretty good doing it. He pitched one inning, the 8th, and had two strikeouts and allowed no hits. Additionally, Craig Kimbrel came out in the 9th to throw his signature two-strikeout save, getting yet another audition to any contending teams who may be vying for him. (His departure is inevitable, unfortunately.)

The rest of the pitchers weren’t much to see, as Trevor Williams only made it five innings and allowed four of the six Cards runs, and Rex Brothers allowed two runs in the 6th for a 4.25 ERA. However, the efforts of just about the whole lineup made up for these gaffs thanks to their 9th-inning rally in the win. It’s the little victories at this point, Cubs fans.

June 21, 2021
Cubs 2, Cardinals 3 (F/10)
WP: McFarland (1-0) LP: Kimbrel (1-3)
Box Score

When Kyle Hendricks is on the mound, he does just about everything in his power to give the Cubs a win, which was exactly what happened tonight. Despite giving up eight hits in 6.1 innings played, Hendricks was able to keep the Cardinals off the board for the first two-thirds of game. In the 5th inning, the Cardinals had runners on first and third base with only one out, but Hendricks was able to pitch himself out of that jam, making a throw to Hoerner to get the out on a sacrifice bunt attempt and then striking out Dylan Carlson.

The Cubs once again couldn’t convert on a ton of offensive chances. They scored the first run of the game in the 3rd inning after Hoerner singled and Rafael Ortega hit a triple to score him. (Ortega had another hit in the 1st inning; two-hit outings for Cubs players officially means you had a Good Game.) However, the Cubs couldn’t score any more runs in the inning, despite runners once again on the corners, as Ortega got caught stealing home to end the inning.

In the 6th, the Cubs had another opportunity to extend their lead after Contreras was able to hit a double to start things off. Unfortunately Contreras was unable to score, as yet another out at the plate was successfully made by the Cardinals. By that time the momentum was lost and the Cardinals got out of that inning unscathed as well.

Heyward got another double in the 7th inning, but once again the Cubs couldn’t convert. Hendricks, showing signs of tiredness in the 6th inning, came back out in the 7th for whatever reason, where he immediately allowed a single. A double two batters later ended up scoring the Cardinals’ tying run. (Could’ve seen that coming.) Andrew Chafin replaced him and immediately gave up a hit, but no more runs for the Cardinals.

The game seemed to be over, but once again the Cubs barely squeaked out enough offense to stay alive in the top of the 9th inning, where of course it was Eric Sogard who doubled to score Hoerner, who had earlier been hit by a pitch, to tie the game. The Cubs even loaded the bases after the Cardinals swapped out their pitcher and the new guy, John Gant, hit two more Cubs with the ball. However, Rizzo grounded out to end the inning without the Cubs being able to usurp the lead.

Keegan Thompson was tasked with getting three outs in the 9th inning, and he started out well; despite allowing a single he then threw two straight strikeouts. But after he walked the next batter, it was time to pull out the big guns. Kimbrel appeared in his 3rd-straight game, getting the Cubs to the 10th inning, but eventually would get the loss as he ended up walking Nolan Arenado and allowing a single to Yadier Molina that scored the walk-off run.

July 22, 2021
Cubs 2, Cardinals 3
WP: Kim (6-5) LP: Alzolay (4-10)
Box Score

Once again, the Cubs’ offense essentially came all at once in one inning, which is not a winning strategy. Jake Marisnick was responsible for both Cubs rubs. He doubled to score Patrick Wisdom, who got on base through a walk, and Baez, who singled.

It was another story for the Cardinals, who gained three runs in the first three innings against Adbert Alzolay. Alzolay allowed only four hits in his six innings pitched and had eight strikeouts, but it didn’t keep the Cardinals from capitalizing when he did allow hits, through home runs by Dylan Carlson and Nolan Arenado.

Rossy put in Dillon Maples for the 7th, who hasn’t been too bad at all since returning from injury. However, after hitting Edmundo Sosa in the head and commencing a 10-minute injury delay, he was obviously shaken up by the events, walking the next batter after striking out his first. Ross did the right thing by replacing him, but unfortunately he was replaced by Winkler, who is sketchy to watch at best. Winkler allowed the bases to be loaded to Arenado but was able to get out of it after Arenado flew out to end the inning.

There was only one hit for the rest of the game, and it came from the Cardinals with Trevor Megill on the mound in the 8th. Kris Bryant even pinch hit to try and get some offense going, where he ended up walking, but the rest of the team just couldn’t generate enough offense to even put anyone in scoring position. Same old story.

The Cubs go back to play the Arizona Diamondbacks again this weekend, in case you didn’t get enough of that dreck last time. Since we saw the D-backs last series, they have won three of their last three games, sweeping the Pirates. Granted, that’s not hard to do, as the Pirates are also basement-dwellers in the MLB, but that’s a better three-game record than what we came up with.

At this point every game is an opportunity to make trade candidates look good before they get dealt from us for prospects we’ve never heard of or players that aren’t as good. It’s a tough point in the season, but let’s attempt to enjoy it while we can, I guess? Go Cubs go!

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