The Cubs came up short in their attempt to sweep Tampa on Wednesday afternoon after another bullpen meltdown. That result took a backseat to a bigger concern, however, as the North Siders lost one of their top starting pitchers to a potentially significant injury.
Nico Hoerner drew a leadoff walk against Zach Eflin to begin a 1st-inning rally. Hoerner stole second base and scored on an Ian Happ single, then the left fielder swiped second as well and came in on a Mike Tauchman RBI single.
Justin Steele was pitching great to begin the game, not allowing a baserunner through three innings. David Ross and the trainer came out to check on Steele with one our in the 3rd, but he finished the inning strong. That was it for him, though, as he came out of the game with forearm tightness.
Hayden Wesneski entered in relief and was brilliant in 3+ innings of work to keep his team ahead 2-0. Wesneski was removed after he walked a batter with two outs in the 7th. Mark Leiter Jr. entered and immediately gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Brandon Lowe.
The North Siders grabbed advantage back in the bottom of the frame when Seiya Suzuki doubled and came home on a long single from Trey Mancini. Leiter went back out for the 8th inning and gave up a second two-run dinger, this time to José Siri, that put Tampa ahead for good 4-3.
The Cubs had five men on base the final two innings and just could not get the big hit to tie or go ahead. The Rays would survive with a one-run victory. (Box score)
A walk, a hit by pitch, and an error loaded the bases for the Cubs with one out in the bottom of the 9th. Lefty reliever Jalen Beeks struck out Miles Mastrobuoni and got Yan Gomes to line out to left earn the save.
Why the Cubs Lost
The inconsistent bullpen continues to hurt the team and the struggles with runners in scoring position were a huge problem again Wednesday.
Stats That Matter
- If Steele has a significant injury the Cubs are going to need more performances from Wesneski like he had in this game: 3.2 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 4 K, and 2 BB.
- Suzuki had two more hits and looks very good at the plate right now.
- Tauchman reached base two more times and had a sacrifice bunt on Wednesday.
The result of the game doesn’t really matter as the Cubs await more information on the severity of Steele’s injury. Anything major could spell doom for any slim playoff hopes for 2023, and it would also just suck for a young man who has worked hard to be one of the best pitchers in the National League.
After a day off Thursday, Chicago begins a 10-game West Coast road trip Friday in San Diego at 8:40pm CT. Jameson Taillon faces a yet to be named Padres pitcher in a game available on Marquee and 670 The Score.