David Ross made a critical mistake that cost the Cubs in Game 1 on Wednesday.
It was pretty clear Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks was running low on gas as he labored through his sixth scoreless inning. He was leaving pitches up, missing locations and walking a tight rope to get out of the frame. But after the bats were quiet in the bottom of the inning, David Ross sent him back out for a seventh inning of work.
Hendricks had worked around leadoff baserunners in several innings leading up to the seventh, so when he retired Jon Berti to open the inning, it looked like Ross had made the right call. But the Miami Marlins followed it up with back-to-back singles and a three-run shot off the bat of Corey Dickerson, turning a 1-0 Cubs lead into a 3-1 Miami advantage.
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Ross went to Jeremy Jeffress, his closer during the regular season, but he was ineffective. Starling Marte singled and then Jesus Aguilar took him deep to the opposite field to blow things open late in the ballgame.
We’ve talked about the Cubs bullpen all year. Craig Kimbrel’s struggles forced Ross to re-shuffle his pecking order in the pen and it’s left plenty to be desired throughout the team’s 60-game slate. With Kimbrel rounding back into form late in the season, Ross can use Jeffress as more of a bridge guy – as he did Wednesday afternoon.
The question I have is this: was Ross’ decision to stick with Hendricks based more on faith in the former NL Cy Young finalist or a lack thereof when it comes to his bullpen?
I can see it being a bit of both. But, man. Even watching on TV, you could visibly see Hendricks starting to fade. Perhaps there were conversations we aren’t privy to at this point, but this is a tough one to swallow.
Do you blame Ross for sticking with Hendricks? That was my first reaction. But then Jeffress turned around and gave up a two-run shot right away, so maybe the first-year skipper was right in rolling the dice with his starter.
Regardless of how it all unraveled, here’s the long and short of it. When you score one run and tally just four hits, more often than not, you’re not going to win – especially come October. The offense has been this team’s most glaring issue all year long. And if the Cubs can’t figure it out on Thursday, they’re going to be watching the rest of the postseason from their couches.