PHOENIX – Of course a rookie delivered the game-winning hit in Friday’s marathon game in the desert between the Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Of course, nobody expected it to be .194-hitting shortstop Nick Ahmed, whose one-out, line single to left off Zac Rosscup drove home Tuffy Gosewisch from second for a 5-4, walkoff win by the Diamondbacks over the Cubs at Chase Field.
“Overall, it was a good game, both sides,” said Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, who came off the bench in the ninth in his first game against the Diamondbacks since they traded him to the Cubs in December.
The Cubs fell to 2-2 on their six-game trip through San Diego and Arizona, their third loss in their last 11 games.
“It just is what it is,” Montero said. “It was a tough loss.”
Especially after the Cubs looked like they had it won with a two-run lead in the 10th and two out in the bottom of the 10th with nobody on base and their closer, Hector Rondon, on the mound.
But after giving up a two-strike double to A.J. Pollock, Rondon found too much of the strike zone with a 2-2 pitch that slugger Paul Goldschmidt drove over the left-field wall to tie it again.
It was the second blown save in three appearances for Rondon, who put the tying run on third before closing out the save in the game in between.
Manager Joe Maddon said he liked Rondon’s stuff and velocity.
“It’s just about executing a pitch,” said Maddon, who was looking for more discretion with Goldschmidt’s hitting zone than anything else, with first base open.
Montero said he thinks Rondon is struggling with a minor mechanical issue that’s causing him to “fly open” and leave some pitches up.
“It wasn’t really a good pitch. Especially with Goldschmidt, you really have to make good pitches,” Montero said. “He’s a professional hitter; you can’t let that guy beat you like that with a fastball middle-middle.”
Montero said Rondon – who was lights out in 2014, particularly in the second half – needs nothing more than a “little tweak” to get back to dominating.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind he’s going to be fine,” Montero said.
Beyond that, the game that starter Jon Lester got to seventh inning tied 2-2 became a battle of bullpen attrition by the late innings – with only Edwin Jackson unused between both eight-man bullpens.
“Our guys did a wonderful job,” Maddon said. “I’m really proud of our effort tonight, right down to the last drop, man. We kept fighting and fighting and fighting.
“There’s nothing to bemoan about the group tonight. We made a bad pitch tonight in the [10th] inning. Otherwise, we had a really nice night.”
The Cubs had taken the lead off former White Sox reliever Addison Reed when Dexter Fowler drew a one-out walk, stole second and scored on Kris Bryant’s ensuing soft single to right-center. After Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked, Starlin Castro then lined a run-scoring single to left for a 4-2 lead.
For the first time in five starts this month, Lester didn’t get a win. But he pitched seven strong enough innings to hand off a 2-2 game to the bullpen.
Without his best stuff, Maddon called Lester’s outing “workmanlike, businesslike.”
“I wouldn’t say it was a grind,” Lester said, “but it definitely wasn’t the sharpest I’ve been. But getting it to the seventh with two was halfway decent, to give your team a chance.”
Lester is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in May after going 0-2, 6.23 in April.
He gave up a quick run in the first on Pollock’s triple followed by a run-scoring single by Goldschmidt. But he retired 11 of the next 13 until Ahmed’s tying homer leading off the fifth.
Fowler’s fifth home run as a Cub made it 1-1 in the third, and the Cubs took a fourth-inning lead when Jorge Soler doubled, took third on Junior Lake’s bunt single and scored – two strikeouts later – on Addison Russell’s infield hit.