The postseason began much the same way the regular season went for the Chicago Cubs. A Cubs starter was dominant for most of the game while the offense lay dormant, and the bullpen was shaky. The end result was a tough loss. Of course, there really isn’t such a thing as a “good” loss in a short, three-game series. A deficit at the end of game two means the offseason begins early for the Northsiders. If the Cubs core doesn’t find a way to break out of their season-long doldrums, no amount of dominant starting pitching will matter.
Kyle Hendricks was everything the Cubs could have hoped for over the first six innings in game one. Unfortunately, his 1/3 of an inning in the seventh did not go nearly as well. After retiring the first batter on a soft ground ball, he surrendered consecutive singles before allowing a soul-crushing three-run homer to Corey Dickerson.
Jeremy Jeffress would go on to allow another two-run homer before the frame mercifully came to an end. Still, honestly, with the way the Cubs offense has been struggling, the Dickerson homer was already the nail in the coffin.
As tough as it is to find positives in a playoff loss, Hendricks really deserves credit for his gutsy start. His command uncharacteristically shaky as he walked three and hit a batter, but his final line was: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 SO. He gave the Cubs a chance to win, but unfortunately, right now, each starter has to essentially pitch a shutout. The one run Hendricks received in support, a solo shot by Ian Happ, was not nearly enough. The final 5-1 deficit felt more like they lost by double digits.
David Ross has had, in my opinion, an excellent rookie season as the Cubs skipper. He has made some mistakes, but overall, he has managed games well. Game one, however, was not one for his highlight reel. I could harp on his decision to start Victor Caratini at DH, something that, in my opinion, weakens both the defense (by forcing Jason Kipnis into the field) and the offense, but that was a decision no doubt made by matchups. His significant error in game one was his slow hook for Hendricks.
No doubt, Joe Maddon would not have sent Hendricks out for the seventh inning. I actually thought it was the right call for Kyle to start the seventh. He was facing the end of the lineup for the third time and still looked sharp. Immediately, it was clear to see that his command was slipping, and he just didn’t look as sharp. Personally, I think Ross should have pulled the plug after the first single in the seventh. One could argue he could have given him one more hitter. I would have understood that, but leaving him in to face Dickerson for the fourth time was asking for disaster. And disaster is what they got.
The Cubs defense was shaky, though Kyle Hendricks was able to work around it. The primary culprit in game one has plagued the Cubs all year: the inability to put together consistent, quality at-bats. They managed only four hits all game. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, and Javier Baez combined to go 2 for 19 with ten men left on base. That’s just not going to win ball games, especially in the heat of postseason play.
The Cubs season is literally on the line in game two. It’s do or die, win or go home, etc. Either the offense shows up, or the city unites to cheer on the Bears.
Yu Darvish takes the mound for the Cubs. He is a likely finalist for the Cy Young award after leading the league in wins and posting a 2.01 ERA. The Cubs will face Sixto Sanchez of the Marlins. First pitch is at 1:08 pm CT on ESPN.
Featured Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
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