Steele sharp again, but late miscues cost Cubs in 3-2 loss to Diamondbacks
For more than a month the Cubs have made it look so easy.
Almost every team in their way has been steamrolled by a combination of clutch hitting and some downright dominant pitching.
Well, the Diamondbacks apparently didn't get the memo that they were supposed to be the next victim, instead sending a clear message to the Cubs that punching a ticket to the postseason party might not be so easy after all.
Arizona's pitchers befuddled David Ross' hitters for a third straight day and claimed a 3-2 10-inning victory at Wrigley Field on Saturday to drop the Cubs to 76-67. This is the first time the Cubs have dropped three straight since July 1-3.
Arizona (75-68) is now just 1 game behind the Cubs for the second wild-card spot in the National League. The Marlins remain on both teams' heels.
"It's a good team we're playing," Ross said. "They pitch really well. ...
"I don't feel like we were just gonna roll to the end of the season without any bumps in the road."
This bump has been created in part by a lack of hitting, with the Cubs scoring just 4 runs and spraying 16 hits in these three games.
Saturday's loss, however, came down to a few late miscues:
• With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Cubs catcher Yan Gomes blasted a deep shot to left field that looked like it might clear the fence for a walk-off home run. Instead, it hit high off the wall and caromed to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Gomes was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double.
• Nick Madrigal followed with a double to right, prompting one to wonder if Gomes or a pinch runner scores from first to give the Cubs a victory.
• In the 10th, Gomes was tagged with a passed ball that allowed automatic runner Gabriel Moreno to race to third. Moreno scored on Daniel Palencia's next offering, which was a wild pitch. Arizona added another run on an RBI single by Tommy Pham.
"Some things kind of snowballed there to give em that extra (run)," Ross said. "(Palencia has) got to do a better job being able to lock in in those moments. Sometimes going through that and some struggles makes you better on the other side."
The Cubs made it 3-2 when Cody Bellinger's RBI single scored Mike Tauchman, but Dansby Swanson popped out to the catcher to end the game. Before Bellinger's base hit, Ian Happ ripped a drive to left that was barely chased down by Gurriel.
It was one of those days. And it's been one of those series.
Swanson, however, believes the tide will turn and the Cubs will get back to their winning ways.
"We went through some struggles and challenges early in the year, but this is a resilient bunch," said Swanson, who was 2-for-5. "We've proven time and time again that we will bounce back.
"These games have been competitive. It's not like we're laying down. We've put a lot of effort in. It just hasn't happened for us. ...
"Someone just said you've got to get the bad luck out to get the good luck in. That may be tomorrow."
Justin Steele started for the Cubs and gave up 1 run and 6 hits in 7 innings while throwing 95 pitches. His 21-inning scoreless streak ended in the fifth when Corbin Carroll singled, stole second, advanced to third on a basehit and scored on a fielder's choice.
Steele, who has not lost in 10 straight starts, lowered his ERA to a major league best 2.49.