Close call, near-misses end Cubs win streak
This was one of those tight games where every pitch matters.
Which helps explain why Cubs manager David Ross got himself tossed in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday.
Nico Hoerner started the inning with a walk. Next up was pinch-hitter Jake Marisnick, who watched the first pitch from Brewers closer Josh Hader sail up near his shoulders, but it was called a strike.
Next was a familiar sight in baseball. Plate umpire Cory Blaser turned toward the Cubs dugout, obviously reacting to some noise. He quickly tossed Ross, who then came out of the dugout to get his point across before exiting.
"Every pitch matters," Ross said after the game. "That's why we fight and we that's why framing's so important, that's why pitch-calling is so important, that's why it's heightened in the playoffs. That's why we put so much importance and we kind of yell and scream out of the dugout at times. The strike zone is important and balls that change at-bats; 1-0 is a lot different than 0-1, period."
No one knows for sure whether that one call would have changed the game. Marisnick ended up striking out on a bad pitch and the game ended with Hoerner still standing on first base. The loss snapped a four-game win streak for the Cubs.
"I watched Corey all day, I have a ton of respect for him," Ross said. "That was a bad call, plain and simple. He hasn't had a high strike zone all day and hadn't had a low strike zone. I thought he had been real consistent all day.
"In the time where we get things going, in a time our team has a ton of confidence, those are the kind of comeback wins that can really keep you going when you're playing really well. Obviously, it's one pitch. But in that moment, that just can't happen in my opinion."
A little better attention to detail by Cubs pitchers would have also helped. The loss spoiled another nice outing by Adbert Alzolay, who struck out 7 and gave up just 2 hits. Alzolay started the game by giving up a double to Kolten Wong, then a walk. But he settled down quickly and retired the next 12 batters.
Keston Hiura led off the fifth with a double and it looked like Alzolay would escape damage once again, until a tough at-bat ended Alzolay's afternoon.
Brewers pinch-hitter Corey Ray, a Chicago native making his major-league debut, fell behind 0-2, then watched four near misses fly past to earn a walk. One strike away from ending the inning, Ross brought in lefty Rex Brothers, who gave up 2 walks and a hit batsman to force in 2 runs and tie the game.
"I thought I had him on the backdoor slider, didn't get the call," Alzolay said. "In that situation, I got pretty upset with myself because I feel I got myself into that situation."
The Brewers took a 4-2 lead in the seventh when pinch-hitter Manny Pina hit a 2-run homer off Andrew Chafin. Jason Heyward got one back with a solo home run in the eighth.
The Cubs went ahead 2-0 in the second inning on a 2-run double by Nico Hoerner, who has gone 4-for-7 with 3 doubles since being recalled from South Bend on Thursday,
Alzolay has started three games this season, all against the Brewers. But he continues to show potentially dominant stuff. Ross, Alzolay and most everyone inside Wrigley Field is looking forward to the day when the 26-year-old Venezuela native can stay in command through 6 or 7 innings.
"I really like that I faced this team three times in a row," Alzolay said. "They've been putting a lot of lefties in the lineup against me and I take it as a challenge. I know I'm better, way better with righties than I have been with lefties in the past, so being able to start having those at-bats against all those lefties early in the season, it's a challenge to me and I think I'm getting better at mixing and executing my pitches to lefties."
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