Cubs waste golden opportunity in ninth, fall to Mets


by - Senior Writer -
Despite a masterful outing by Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta on Tuesday, Chicago failed to garner a victory
Despite a masterful outing by Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta on Tuesday, Chicago failed to garner a victory

CHICAGO -- With two Cy Young contenders on the mound in Noah Syndergaard of the Mets and Jake Arrieta of the Cubs, runs were hard to come by on Tuesday night. And even though Syndergaard pitched well in his 5.2 innings on the mound, a disappointing bottom half of the ninth was the primary reason for the Cubs’ 2-1 defeat. With no one to blame but themselves, the Cubs failed to produce with the game on the line.

The hard-throwing Syndergaard let one get away from him in the bottom of the third, perhaps flustered by the double that Cubs left fielder Willson Contreras crushed to deep right in the previous at-bat. Advancing to third on the wild pitch, Contreras was then brought home by an ill-fated throw-out attempt from Mets catcher Rene Rivera. The comedy of errors on behalf of the Mets thus allowed the Cubs to make their way onto the scoreboard first, taking a 1-0 lead with them into the fourth inning.

Arrieta got in on the offensive action during the ensuing inning by doubling towards the wall in center. An excellent hitter for a pitcher, the impressive double marked Arrieta’s 11th hit of the season. However, Arrieta failed to cap off his extra-base hit with a run, as he was thrown out at the plate attempting to score on single to right by third baseman Tommy La Stella, thus ending the inning. La Stella had two hits and a walk on the night.

In the top of the sixth, Mets third baseman Jose Reyes, now in his second stint with the organization, scored via a sacrifice fly from center fielder Curtis Granderson, knotting the game up at one run apiece.

Redeeming himself from his throwing error earlier in the game, Rivera produced the winning RBI in the top of the ninth. Despite the game being tied upon the inception of the inning, Cubs manager Joe Maddon elected to send closer Hector Rondon to the mound.

With runners on first and second and two outs, Rivera hit a clutch single to right that scored the lead runner, second baseman Neil Walker, and advanced shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from first to third. Although Rondon forced a third-out groundout soon after, the Rivera RBI proved to be the Cubs’ coup de grace.

The Cubs have faltered at times with runners in scoring position throughout the season, but tonight’s ninth inning collapse was, without a doubt, the worst example of that from this year. After Mets closer Jeurys Familia walked the first two batters, speedy pinch hitter Javier Baez was able to make it to first on a perfectly executed bunt up the third base line. With the bases loaded and the Cubs trailing 2-1, visions of a walkoff hit likely were dancing in Cubs’ fans heads. But, alas, the Cubs were unable to even force extra innings, as a fielder’s choice force-out at home and a game-ending double play provided the Mets with a 2-1 victory at the Friendly Confines. The Cubs’ most reliable hitter, left fielder Kris Bryant, went 2-5 on the night, but his final at-bat, the double play groundout, broke the heart of every Cubs fan in the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Entering the game with MLB’s second-best record, the Cubs also entered a meager 17-21 since June 5. Therefore, winning three out of five games to begin the second half of the season is assuredly a welcome, relieving sign for Maddon and his staff. But tonight’s game had all of the characteristics of a potential playoff matchup that might take place this fall, and the Cubs failed to make a statement by coming away victorious. Although the North Siders were far and away the best team in baseball through the first two and a half months of the season, the competition has caught up with Chicago, meaning a return to World Series-caliber form must occur fairly soon if the Cubs are to stay atop the National League Central standings.

Wasting a gem of an outing from Arrieta, who pitched seven innings and only gave up five hits while striking out eight, the Cubs squandered a golden opportunity in the ninth that will not soon be forgotten. The rubber match of the three-game series will take place tomorrow afternoon, as young Cubs (56-37) starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks will take on 43-year-old Mets (50-43) starter Bartolo Colon.

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