There was a moment there — in the bottom of the 8th inning with two on, two outs, and one of the Cubs hottest hitters, Ian Happ, at the plate — that I thought might turn the tides in Chicago’s favor. But it didn’t happen. Yu Darvish threw a sinker at Happ’s ankles and he swung through it for the final out of the inning.
107 pitches and 8 innings of one-run baseball for the former Cubs righty. And aside from some wildness in the first, and that touch of trouble in the 8th, he was excellent. The Cubs bats, by contrast … woof. That was one quiet night. Aside from a Yan Gomes solo homer, they couldn’t do anything against Darvish, scattering just 5 hits and no walks over the first 8.0 innings of the game.
Of course, the Cubs had a themselves a ballgame for the first seven innings, as Justin Steele stayed toe-to-toe with Darvish, allowing just six hits (no walks) and 1 earned run over 7.0 innings pitched. And he was crazy efficient too, needing just 77 pitches to make it that far. But with the fourth time through the order coming up, David Ross handed the ball over to Rowan Wick in the 8th … who was immediately lit up allowing three runs to cross the plate and ultimately determine the ballgame.
Part of me understands the decision: (1) Ross had a chance to ensure back-to-back REALLY good outings for Justin Steele, (2) the bullpen has been lights out for most of the year, (3) and the fourth time through thing is not a myth … but man. When a guy is THAT efficient and generating THAT much weak contact on the ground all night long … I don’t know. I think you have to at least let him go batter-to-batter. I suspect Ross will hear from his critics on that one.
And as a matter of fact, Steele’s results were even better than the final (stellar) line would suggest, as his lone run scored after a bloop double and the defense was not very helpful for most of the night (though there was a really nice play from Frank Schwindel and another from Patrick Wisdom that both deserve some love).
OH, and he did all of this after taking a comebacker off his bare hand in the top of the first inning, which almost looked like it was going to take him out of the game. Anyway, we’ll have much more on Steele tomorrow, because the guy just took down the top (Cardinals, at the time) and 8th best (Padres) offense against left-handed pitching in back-to-back starts. That requires some serious attention.
Cubs lose, onto the next.