This was not technically a must-win game for the Cubs. But kicking off a four-game series against the division leading Cardinals, whom they trailed by three games, felt about as must-win as it could. An extremely late pre-game lineup change provided a jolt of energy for both the team and fans.
That, of course, was the insertion of Anthony Rizzo into the leadoff spot just days removed from what appeared to be a pretty gruesome ankle injury. The move paid early dividends, as Rizzo launched a 3rd inning homer off of Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty to tie the game at 1-1.
The Cubs’ bats went quiet for the next five innings as Flaherty turned in a masterful outing, striking out eight over eight innings. Cubs starter Kyle Henricks didn’t fare as well, giving up four earned runs over 5.1 innings. Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader accounted for much of the damage, delivering a pair of run-scoring singles.
Trailing 4-1, the Cubs put the first two men on in the 9th inning against Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez. After a Kyle Schwarber strikeout, Ben Zobrist drove in a run with a double down the right field line. Javy Báez, who was cleared to play earlier in the day, came in to pinch run for Zo. A Willson Contreras dribbler scored another run, to bring the Cubs within 4-3 and being Andrew Miller in.
Why the Cubs Lost
The flurry of runs in the 9th inning was just too little to late. The bats are going to have to wake up earlier during the remainder of this series, and season, for the Cubs to have any real chance.
The key moment happened before the game started. The surprise news of Rizzo’s early return to the lineup may be what the offense needs to get back on track.
Stats That Matter
- The Cubs are now four games behind the Cardinals for the division lead, and a game behind Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. They go to sleep completely out of playoff position for the first time in months.
- With the loss, the Cubs are 19-24 in one-run games, and 4-9 in extra inning games.
They have to win the next three or they basically have no shot at the division.
The series continues at 1:20pm CT Friday as Alec Mills makes a spot start against fellow right-hander Michael Wacha. Mills is filling for Cole Hamels, who is skipping a start due to shoulder fatigue. The contest airs on ABC-7 and 670 The Score.