There was an early deficit, good work from a starting pitcher, a hiccup with the bullpen and a late rally.
If you’re looking for one game to sum up the 2017 Cubs, their 5-4 marathon loss to the New York Yankees at Wrigley Field that ended early Monday morning would be a good place to start.
That is, if it hadn’t lasted 18 historically long innings and six hours, five minutes with an MLB-record 48 combined strikeouts. Starlin Castro’s run-scoring fielder’s choice was the difference as the Yankees earned a three-game sweep.
“It was an incredible thing to watch,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It just was frustrating, exasperating, but you’ve got to play tomorrow night.”
The Cubs are just 16-15 and 7-9 at home. But the most memorable thing about the game was how long it went.
With the Cubs trailing 4-1 in the ninth, Albert Almora singled against Aroldis Chapman to drive in Jon Jay, and Javy Baez followed with an RBI single of his own to cut the Yankees’ lead to 4-3. Chapman recovered to strike out Kyle Schwarber and went to a 3-1 count before intentionally walking Kris Bryant. With two outs and the bases loaded, Chapman hit Anthony Rizzo on the left forearm to tie the score.
Rizzo had an X-ray during the game that came back negative and expects to stay in the lineup for the game Monday — or, as Rizzo quipped, “in a few hours” — in Denver.
“It’s just one of those games where, I know we lost, but you’ve got to try to have fun with it,” Rizzo said.
After Rizzo was hit, Tyler Clippard replaced Chapman and got Ben Zobrist to ground to second to keep the score tied. In the 12th, Schwarber made one of the plays of the year when he barreled into the stands where the old bullpen was to catch Chase Headley’s pop-up.
The game went on and on and on, mercifully wrapping up at 1:15 a.m. after the teams’ bullpens traded zeros. It was the Cubs’ longest game by innings since 2006, at Houston and their longest by innings at Wrigley since 1986.
There were almost 600 pitches, and even a “JOE WEST SUCKS!” chant at the prominent home-plate umpire from the few fans who stayed.
“For the most part, an epic strikeout performance,” Maddon said, bemoaning that the Cubs fanned 26 times. “I know they’re good, their pitchers, but we have to do better than that at the plate.”
The Yankees got to Pedro Strop in the 18th. Aaron Hicks led off with a bunt single and reached second on Willson Contreras’ throwing error. After advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt, Hicks scored when Addison Russell’s throw home on Castro’s grounder was wide and late.
In the bottom of the inning, the Cubs had two on, but Chasen Shreve struck out pinch hitter Kyle Hendricks to end the game. Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey all pinch-hit in extras. They were needed because Jason Heyward (right hand) wasn’t available.
“We have to evaluate it to see, moving forward,” Maddon said.
Something else the Cubs have to evaluate is how often they fall behind early.
Castro’s run-scoring groundout in the first against Jon Lester gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead. It was the 41st first-inning run allowed by the Cubs.
“As a pitcher, you want the lead, and that’s the same with position players. You always want to be within striking distance of the lead, and we usually are,” Rizzo said. “Playing from behind is good for us to come together as a team, but at the same time, we also want to just boat race and score runs right from the get-go. A win’s a win no matter how it comes, and every day is different.”
The Cubs tied it at 1 in the third on Baez’s homer to left off Luis Severino, but they fell behind in the seventh when Aaron Judge’s RBI triple drove in Castro. Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-run homer off Justin Grimm in the eighth made it 4-1.
“Games like this definitely bring both sides together,” Rizzo said. “I know they won, the Yankees, but both teams I think are going to be better off after this game, just coming together as a unit.”
Lester went seven innings and allowed two runs (one earned). With a series starting Monday night against the Rockies, the Cubs might need to make some bullpen moves. They definitely need to sleep fast to recover.
“I think first priority is get some sleep and second priority get a rain man,” Maddon said, “and a third priority is actually try to play the game.”
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