Frustration boils over as Cubs lose to Arizona in heat, rain
This was one of those nothing days for the Cubs that was never going to all seem worthwhile.
They failed to build a winning streak against the NL's worst team, their potential trade pieces didn't necessarily shine and the inevitable result was delayed for more than an hour by a rainstorm in the ninth inning.
Despite jumping to a 2-0 lead, the Cubs lost to Arizona 7-3 on Saturday. That's the same Diamondbacks that were 2-31 in their last 33 road games heading into this one.
So nothing has changed for the Cubs. With the trade deadline now six days away, no one knows what the future holds. What does seem clear is, over the final two months of the season, the Cubs will be out of playoff contention for the first time since 2014.
"I think there's a lot of 'wait and see,'" manager David Ross said. "I don't know what's going to happen at the trade deadline and neither do you guys, neither do the fans. ... We're not concerned about that and we can't control those things."
After the rain delay, there was one burst of fireworks when catcher Willson Contreras, who homered earlier in the game, was tossed by umpire Pat Hoberg while Jason Heyward was at the plate. Contreras charged out of the dugout and was intercepted by Ross, who physically prevented Contreras from getting near the plate area.
"He's a passionate player. I love his passion," Ross said. "He probably has as good a feel as anybody when you're catching about where the strike zone's been all day. He's hitting. Things like that can play into that.
"I know he's passionate, I think he was passionate for a teammate there in a situation maybe he felt like a call or two didn't go our way. I don't know. But I love everybody's passion for the game and trying to win for sure."
The biggest shock from this game was a poor performance from reliever Andrew Chafin. With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the seventh, Chafin faced four batters and gave up a walk, walk, single and double for a total of 3 runs.
This was a surprising development because Chafin hadn't allowed a run since May 7. His scoreless streak stretched through 26 games and 24 1/3 innings pitched. It was also the first time all season he walked consecutive batters.
Ryan Tepera came in and finished the inning with no further damage. But Rex Brothers gave up a 2-run homer to pinch-hitter Andrew Young in the top of the ninth. It was the fourth home run allowed by Brothers in his last three outings.
Arizona's hitting hero was catcher Daulton Varsho, who had a 2-run homer, then the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh. He's the son of former Cub Gary Varsho. Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly, a Lake Forest resident until eighth grade, beat the Cubs for the second time in a week.
Cubs pitcher Alec Mills led off the third inning with a double, his first career extra-base hit. They eventually loaded the bases with nobody out, but scored just one run when Mills came home on a Javy Baez double play. Contreras' home run in the fourth made it 2-0.
Mills was doing well until the fifth inning, when he gave up the home run and seemed to wear down in the heat.
"It was really hot, the sun was out today," Mills said. "It was a matter of just making sure I stayed hydrated as much as I could and kind of just go as long as I could. Obviously, I started running a little bit out of gas in the last inning there. Left a changeup up to Varsho, pretty bad changeup. It happens.
"The last few outings have been pretty good, but I'm not pleased with how I've finished the last three or four. It's been really good outings, then kind of fell off there at the end. A couple pitches away from having three or four outings of maybe 0, 1 runs. Obviously, that's frustrating for me."