Too many walks ruin Cubs' momentum in Arizona
The Cubs gave a clinic in how to stall your own momentum during Sunday's 6-4 loss to Arizona.
They missed a chance to sweep the worst team in MLB and get their second half off to a fast start, with a softer schedule on the horizon.
It all started with giving up 11 walks. The Cubs used five pitchers and all five of them walked the first batter they faced. According to Stats LLC, that hadn't happened in a major-league game since 1980.
"I thought yesterday would give us a nice boost into today," Cubs manager David Ross said after the game. "Today we weren't very sharp. Too many free passes, I thought. Sometimes that could be the layoff from the bullpen guys. Wink (Dan Winkler) hadn't thrown, Kyle Ryan hadn't thrown."
There's still hope for starting the second half with a surge, but the Cubs missed a great opportunity to sweep the Diamondbacks, after pulling off their first ninth-inning comeback of the season on Saturday.
"I think we're going to have a better second half," Javy Baez said. "We're trying too much. I think a homer is not going to change the game. Especially me, I'm trying to see the ball better and just take my singles and trying to help the team better. I think we've got to adjust better this second half."
What's not clear is if the Cubs are on a tight deadline to turn things around. The MLB trade deadline is looming on July 30 and Baez is one of those players in the final year of his contract. After the game, he was asked if there's any optimism for a contract extension in the next two weeks.
"If anything happens, we're ready. I'm here," Baez said. "I think it's time to focus to get back into first place and get back on track to make the playoffs. I'm not really paying attention to that."
The Cubs tied the score at 2-2 in the sixth inning on an RBI double by Kris Bryant, followed by a tying single by Baez. But the seventh inning was a rough one on the mound.
Winkler, making his first appearance since before the break, loaded the bases with one out on 2 walks and a hit batsman. The go-ahead run scored on a fielder's choice grounder that bounced in front of the plate, then a second run scored on a wild pitch by Rex Brothers.
Eduardo Escobar added a 2-run homer off Brothers in the eighth to make it 6-2. Four of Arizona's 6 runs were scored by batters who reached base on a walk or hit by pitch.
Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly pitched into the ninth inning, trying to finish the game. He left when Bryant and Baez opened the ninth with hits. A two-out double by Rafael Ortega brought the tying run to the plate, but pinch-hitter Willson Contreras struck out looking to end the game.
Cubs starter Zach Davies had to work out of a lot of trouble, dealing with 10 baserunners in less than 5 innings.
"Trying to get guys to chase and they did a good job of laying off some pitches," Davies said of his 4 walks. "Some of them you kind of question what their approach was, just based off of a guy that's really aggressive and you throw a few fastballs that are right at the bottom of the zone. Typically you think he's going to swing and he doesn't."
The Cubs move onto St. Louis for a four-game series. There's still time for the Cubs to put some wins together, but no one is sure if the finish line is Oct. 3 or July 30.