DETROIT — Pitching, especially the bullpen, has been a strength of the Cubs the last several weeks, but the arms had a long Saturday.
Despite staying in a back-and-forth game against the Tigers that saw 17 runs scored, the Cubs weren’t able to come out on top as Detroit pushed across two in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 9-8 victory.
“Just one of those grinder games that came up short in there,” manager David Ross said.
The day started on the right foot for the Cubs as the offense took a 2-0 first-inning lead, but things quickly began to spiral. Trevor Williams wasn’t able to find a rhythm from the start and the Tigers took advantage, responding with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.
While there wasn’t lots of damage or hard contact, Ross had a short leash on the right-hander and turned to his bullpen to cover the final eight innings.
“You’re expecting yourself to go nine innings,” Williams said. “That’s your job. That’s what you’re supposed to do. With today’s game, it’s tough to get nine, but as a starter, that’s really your goal.
“I tried to talk [Ross] out of [taking me out]. We’ve talked. I’m sure we’ll have conversations again tomorrow and kind of see where we’re at in terms of what he saw and what I saw. But the team really did a great job today picking me up.”
The offense continued to come up big for the Cubs as they took the lead twice before the game got to extra innings. Third baseman Matt Duffy’s early-season success continued as he went 3-for-5 with five RBI, including a three-run homer in the fifth inning.
Cubs relievers have started to jell. But they had their issues after Williams left the game, allowing five earned runs and five walks with traffic on the bases in all but one inning.
It looked like the Cubs might be able to steal the game in extras as Duffy lined an RBI single to give them an 8-7 lead. But not even closer Craig Kimbrel was immune from the damage as he allowed RBI singles to Nomar Mazara and Harold Castro to give the Tigers the 9-8 victory.
“I think it’s one of those [days] where we couldn’t get away from the crooked number,” Ross said. “They threw up a few crooked numbers that kept them in the ballgame. We did make some big pitches when we needed to at times to get out some jam. They had a lot of traffic out there and we were navigating through what felt like the entire day.”
The lone bright spot in the bullpen was right-hander Keegan Thompson, who has impressed and is gaining the trust of his manager during his first stint pitching in the big leagues. Thompson pitched two scoreless innings, striking out five.
“In the big leagues, you have to be better with location,” Thompson said. “In the minor leagues, you can get away with leaving pitches up. You can’t in the big leagues. I learned that in my last outing against Cleveland. Just trying to take each outing and learn from it.
“It gives me huge confidence. Whether I have confidence in myself or not, they seem to have confidence in me, no matter what, which is very good to see.”