The Chicago Cubs have deserved each of their 9 losses this season.
On Saturday, it looked like they were going to win one they had no business winning.
Alas, it wasn’t to be, as they went down, 6-5, to the Los Angeles Angels at Wrigley Field, thanks once again to their relief pitchers’ inability to locate the strike zone. But at least they went down with a fight – or with an animated argument.
The Cubs had come from being down 6-2 in the eighth inning with a pair of runs in the bottom half. They were a run down with runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth inning and Kyle Schwarber at the plate facing Cody Allen.
Schwarber battled Allen to a 3-2 count and then tried to check his swing. Home-plate umpire Jerry Meals appealed to third-base ump Gabe Morales, who rang Schwarber up.
Incensed, Schwarber slammed his helmet down and charged toward Morales, only to be intercepted by teammate Javier Baez, who was on third base. Even though the game had ended, Schwarber was ejected, saying both Meals and Morales threw him out.
Schwarber stood by his belief that he had checked his swing.
“I was a little hot,” he said. “Able to calm down now, but wasn’t the happiest person in the world. They both threw me out. I knew I was gone as soon as he even rung me. I don’t like to get thrown out. I just don’t like the way the game ended right there. If you’re not 100 percent sure [it’s a strike], you can’t call it.”
Manager Joe Maddon had his own take – with a Maddonesque twist, of course.
“Everybody’s worried about an electronic strike zone,” said Maddon, whose team is 5-9. “I want an electronic method to control checked swings. That would be much more interesting, and I would prefer that. Let the umpires call the game like they always do. Let’s figure out a way to control checked swings. I got ideas on that, too.”
Baez was worried about protecting his teammate and for his own safety.
“He’s a pretty big dude,” he said of Schwarber. “He played football. I never played football in my life. He kind of took me with him, but I held him pretty good. He moves to the sides pretty good. He almost went by me. I played good defense.”
Pitching is what got the Cubs into trouble in the first place. Starter Kyle Hendricks gave up three runs in the second inning, when he threw 30 pitches.
One of the runs was unearned because of catcher’s interference against Willson Contreras, whose mitt came into contact with the bat of Tommy La Stella, putting him on first base. The Angels got a run on an RBI single and a double-play grounder. It was the third interference call against Contreras this season.
Hendricks lasted five innings, giving up six hits and throwing 87 pitches, struggling with his command all along.
“Still battling myself, kind of running my changeup too much today,” said Hendricks, who is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA. “My fastball command wasn’t there, really, again. At least the movement was better. I was getting [the ball to] sink. They were all leak-backs. I couldn’t get good depth on it.”
Hendricks walked only one, but reliever Brad Brach walked three, Randy Rosario added one, as did Tim Collins. Kyle Ryan finished with a pair of bases on balls.
In 51 innings this year, Cubs relievers have given up 52 hits and 38 walks for a feverish 1.76 WHIP.
“Loved the fight,” Maddon said. “I thought we came back. We just walked too many guys from the pitching perspective. Had an opportunity late. Really happy about that. We were definitely mentally involved for nine innings. I love that part of it. Kyle was not that good today. Our bullpen in general, we just walked too many guys. We walked too many folks and that put too many guys up to the plate for them. But the battle was good.”