Red flags continue to abound for this important Chicago Cubs reliever

Free passes continue to haunt veteran Hector Neris, who is pitching in a role he's not suited for.
Chicago Cubs v New York Mets
Chicago Cubs v New York Mets / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

After being up much of the night with our daughter on Monday, I hoped to go to bed early Tuesday night to catch up on some sleep. But Ben Brown's run at history kept me up and a soul-grasping fear the offense wouldn't come through or the bullpen would falter (or, potentially, both) had me watching until the final out was recorded and the Chicago Cubs secured the win.

My wife found it wildly entertaining watching me hang on every pitch that came out of Hector Neris' hand in the bottom of the ninth, when he blew the save before the Chicago bats came alive in the tenth, plating five runs. I didn't feel all that great about the ball coming out of his hand and after he walked Christian Yelich, I waited with bated breath yet again.

Control issues have plagued Cubs reliever Hector Neris all season long

Walks have been a major thorn in the side of Neris so far in his Cubs tenure, with the veteran ranking in the bottom 2 percent of the league in terms of walk rate. As has so often been the case this season, the walk to Yelich proved costly after Neris was called for a balk, which allowed the former MVP to advance to second with Willy Adames at the plate.

Adames, who Cody Bellinger robbed of a game-tying home run in his previous at-bat, then delivered an RBI single that scored Yelich, sending the game into extras at American Family Field. Now, the Cubs prevailed in the end, but their late-inning need was once again made clear in the process.

Neris has walked at least one batter in more than half of his 20 appearances, a troubling statistic for a pitcher who is supposed to be a stabilizing presence in the Cubs bullpen. There were signs of regression in his final season in Houston, suggesting his 1.71 ERA last year was due to a fair bit of good luck - and that carried through into his foray into free agency.

The veteran has a key role to play, even at this point in his career. He's got a long track record of winning and pitching in big spots. But he's best suited for the seventh inning at this point, and handing him the ball in the ninth continues to be a roller coaster ride that no one wants to experience.