One and done: Anemic hitting leads to 2-1, 13-inning loss, quick exit for Cubs
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The Cubs had the right pitcher on the mound to start the game. They had the bullpen guys they wanted lined up for the late innings – and extra innings.
But once again it came down to the Cubs’ on-again, off-again, flickering lineup in the high-stakes, loser-out wild-card game against the Rockies on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
And when .170-hitting backup catcher Tony Wolters singled up the middle with two out in the 13th inning off the Kyle Hendricks – the Cubs best pitcher in September – it all flickered out.
Wolters lifted the Rockies to a 2-1 victory in the longest postseason game in Wrigley history – sending the Cubs home earlier than they’ve finished a season since 2014.
The team with the most regular-season victories and postseason victories in baseball the previous three years are suddenly done after managing just two runs in 22 innings over two losses to the Brewers (in Monday’s division tiebreaker) and Rockies.
“This is four years in a row in the playoffs,” manager Joe Maddon said after a round of shots and hugs in the clubhouse following the game. “This is something we really believe we can sustain. We just got a little bit challenged offensively at the end of the year; obviously that hurt us.
“But as a group and [with the [talent and the way they interact I could not ask for more.”
Until Wolters’ hit, the Rockies were 0-for-8 with men in scoring position, leaving nine men on base, and hadn’t scored in 12 innings.
But you should have seen the other guys.
A Cubs lineup that entered the game having scored exactly one run – on a solo homer – since Sunday afternoon’s sixth inning left 10 on base, going 1-for-6 with men in scoring position.
In their nine games at home over the past nine days, the Cubs went 4-5 – scoring 1 or none in the five losses.
“You guys have to realize, too, these guys are getting paid to get us out,” Schwarber said. “It’s unfortunate it ended up in this manner. But you have to see all the positives that happened this year, too.
“There’s a ton of guys on this team who were unbelievable throughout the whole year, to where it just didn’t end up being right.”
It wasn’t until there were two out in the bottom of the eighth on Tuesday night that the Cubs scored the run that ultimately created the longest postseason game in Wrigley Field history – both by innings and time.
And it took the last man on their bench, and cost Anthony Rizzo for the rest of the game to do it.
Rizzo’s single up the middle off Adam Ottavino led to the tying run – after Maddon used the fastest guy in the place to pinch-run for him.
Terrance Gore quickly stole second place, and the Cubs’ MVP this year, Javy Baez, delivered his biggest hit of the week – a legged-out double to center to score Gore easily.
But when Almora followed with an inning-ending strikeout, the flickering continued.
Rizzo’s spot came up twice more in the game with Gore striking out both times, including leading off a 1-2-3 13th.
“You come out of the game there and Terrance Gore scores, he steals a base – you can’t really question it,” said Rizzo, who was seen telling Maddon “no, no, no, no” at the time.
“Obviously I don’t ever want to come out of a baseball game, but at that point you put your cheerleading pom-poms on.”
The lefty-lefty pitching rematch that featured big-game Cubs starter Jon Lester against postseason rookie Kyle Freeland on short rest turned into a classic October duel.
Freeland, a 17-game winner for the Rockies this year, got the best of it for 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
Freeland, who lost his only start against the Cubs (3-2 in April), allowed only four hits, all singles, and one walk.
And despite putting the leadoff man on three times, he didn’t pitch with a Cub in scoring position until sixth. That lasted one batter and a double play.
“We’ve got to go out there and compete, and if we do that, there’s no team that can beat us,” Baez said, “and they know that. So that’s why they run their mouth a lot, because they know we’re the best. Even when we’re struggling, we are the head of everybody.”
They certainly competed. Hitting was another thing.
Lester did his job on this day, even as Twitter clamored for more when he was lifted at 86 pitches for pinch-hitter Ian Happ leading off the bottom of the sixth.
His lone walk cost him the only run he allowed.
That came to the first hitter of the game, Charlie Blackmon.
Former Cub DJ LeMahieu, the 2016 batting champion, then drove a ball through the gap in left-center that appeared to drive home Blackmon – until Bryant threw up his hands in left with the ball in the ivy.
The ground-rule double put runners at second and third for Nolan Arenado, who followed with a sacrifice fly to center.
LeMahieu took third on the play and was stranded there as Lester struck out Trevor Story and Matt Holliday to end the inning.
After the double, Lester retired 18 of the final 21 batters he faced, including seven more strikeouts.
The Cubs fell to 6-3 in elimination games under Maddon.