The ability to avoid losing streaks fueled the Chicago Cubs’ rise from a sub-.500 team to a postseason contender.
They hadn’t lost more than two games in a row since early July, when they lost three games in a row.
But their 3-2 loss in 10 innings to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday in front of 40,391 at Wrigley Field ended that two-month streak, and the third straight loss to their closest wild-card pursuer left them one game ahead of the Diamondbacks for second place .
“Obviously we went through some struggles and challenges early in the year, but this is a resilient bunch,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “We have proven time and time again that we will bounce back. These games were competitive. It’s not like we’re lying down.
“I felt like we put in a lot of effort. It just didn’t happen for us. We have so many great players that it will balance out at some point. Sometimes you have to take out the bad luck to bring in the good luck. That could be tomorrow.”
The Cubs were four games behind the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers, who beat the New York Yankees on Saturday, while the Miami Marlins and Cincinnati Reds were hot on the Diamondbacks’ heels for the third wild-card spot.
“Overall I didn’t feel like we were going to just get through the season without any bumps in the road, did we?” said manager David Ross. “I don’t think we’re playing bad baseball. We just don’t get the key hit when we need it. That comes and goes sometimes, especially when it comes to good pitches.”
The Cubs went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position against Merrill Kelly and four relievers, putting out 10 baserunners. Ryan Thompson flied out Yan Gomes to end the sixth with the bases loaded, and Gomes was thrown out at second in the ninth after a perfect play to the ball by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who also made a diving catch against Ian Happ in the 10.
In their three losses to the Diamondbacks, the Cubs scored four runs in 28 innings and missed dominant outings the final two days from starters Jameson Taillon and Justin Steele.
A wild pitch on a slider by rookie Daniel Palencia started the 10th Saturday, and the Diamondbacks added a run on an RBI single by Tommy Pham. The Cubs scored in the bottom of the 10th on Cody Bellinger’s RBI single, but Swanson fouled the catcher on a popup to end the game.
Kyle Hendricks faces Brandon Pfaadt in Sunday’s finale before the Cubs embark on a big six-day trip to Colorado and Arizona.
Steele threw another gem to stay in the running for the National League Cy Young Award, allowing one run on six hits over seven innings, six strikeouts and no walks. But the Cubs’ offense mustered just one run behind it, an infield popup in the third inning by Bellinger that was lost in the sun, allowing Nico Hoerner to run around from the start and make it 1-0.
Steele struck out the last nine batters he faced, but retired in a 1-1 tie after throwing 95 pitches. Julian Merryweather and Adbert Alzolay pitched scoreless innings before Ross Palencia substituted Mark Leiter Jr. or Brad Boxberger, a former closer. Ross said before the game that Boxberger would not be used in high-leverage situations after returning from a long stint on the IL.
Palencia went scoreless eight times in a row, but his inexperience may have been a factor.
“These moments are good for young people,” said Ross, who added that Palencia needs to “get ready” for a big moment.
“Sometimes when you go through that and some hardships, you come out better on the other side.”
But this is not the time of year to learn lessons. Jose Cuas, in his second season, suffered Friday’s loss after striking out the first two in the eighth inning.
The Cubs’ bullpen has been one of the reasons for the magical run since late June, but being in a pennant race isn’t something they’re used to. When every shot counts in a close game, experience matters.
Dealing with the changing conditions at Wrigley is also new for some Cubs. Many of their offensive difficulties early in the season stemmed from their inability to score on high wind days.
In Chicago, the weather can change in an instant. With incoming wind it is 20-20, with outgoing wind it is 14-8.
“One day you were watching the San Fran series and it felt like everything was falling apart,” Swanson said. “Then everything blows over in the next series. It’s really challenging for an offense to just be well-rounded. We’ll find a way to bring some things together.”
The roller coaster season in April, May and June has been increasing since July. Now would be a bad time to take a step backwards.
But that’s the challenge the Cubs face. The players know what lies ahead, as does Ross.
There are no excuses if they don’t make it to October.
https://www.twincities.com/2023/09/09/column-chicago-cubs-luck-runs-out-in-3-2-10-inning-loss-to-the-arizona-diamondbacks-their-3rd-straight/ The Chicago Cubs’ luck ends with a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, their third straight game – Twin Cities