After being defeated by the Dodgers late Monday night, the Colorado Rockies came to Wrigley Field on Tuesday, defeating the Cubs 2-1 in 13 innings, claiming the National League Wild Card.
In the top of the 13th, Rockies third catcher, Tony Wolters, drove a Kyle Hendricks change-up through the middle of the infield, scoring Trevor Story for the game-winner. Wolters came into the game as a pinch-hitter, batting just .170 on the season and hitless since September 10th. The Cubs failed to get a single base-runner in the bottom half; ending the longest sudden-death game in baseball history.
In many ways, Tuesday night’s game was an exact replica of the Cubs’ regular season; a long, grueling faceoff filled with false hope, and the goal of reaching the National League Division Series. This was the first loss by the Cubs in a winner-take-all game since 2003.
It was a pitching duel from start to finish. Kyle Freeland of the Rockies came to Wrigley on just three days’ rest. Freeland tossed 6.2 innings, striking out six and allowing just four hits and no runs. Cub’s veteran left-hander, Jon Lester, was up for the task. Lester struck out nine through six innings of work and gave up one run. Lester is the most experienced Cubs pitcher in post-season history.
Despite great pitching from both teams from start to finish, the Cubs struggled to get things going with the bats. The Cubs led the National League in wins for most the season, however, in 40 of their 164 games they scored one run or less. Just one team in the MLB finished with as many games with one run or fewer, the Orioles. The Orioles finished the season as the worst team in baseball with just 47 wins.
“Yeah, we played that game a lot…” said Cubs Manager, Joe Maddon, in reference to yet another low-scoring affair, “We had some opportunities, we just could not cash in.”
The Cubs failed to capitalize on a great opportunity in the seventh inning after Freeland was taken out of the game. Jason Heyward came up to face Adam Ottavino with the bases loaded but struck out to end the inning.
The Cubs would tie the game in the eighth inning, however, on a Javier Baez double that drove in Terrence Gore. Gore came in as a pinch-runner for Anthony Rizzo earlier in the inning and stole second base to put the Cubs in scoring position.
While the Rockies prepare for Milwaukee in the NLDS, the Cubs turn to their front office as they begin to prepare for next season. After failing to reach the NLDS for the first time since 2014, plenty of focus will be directed towards contract negotiations between the club and Cub’s Manager, Joe Maddon, while the team also looks to address the offensive woes.
Could a free agent signing be the answer? Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two of the league’s most powerful sluggers, will be amongst many players in need of new contracts come this off-season.