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Cubs’ playoff hopes nearly extinguished in tough loss to Milwaukee

2 months agoAndy Martinez

MILWAUKEE — The Cubs had all the makings for a special comeback with their backs against the wall.

They just fell one big hit away.

And the Brewers had one big knock left in them.

After rallying from a 3-run deficit in the final two frames, the Cubs failed to score a run in the extra innings and fell to the Brewers 4-3 on a walk-off single from Carlos Santana. It leaves the Cubs 1.5 games behind the Marlins for the final Wild Card spot with 2 to play, leaving their playoff hopes in a very precarious situation. The Marlins can clinch the final Wild Card spot with a win over Pittsburgh tomorrow or a Cubs loss. 

“We obviously gave ourselves a chance,” Dansby Swanson said. “There’s no quit in this team. I feel like we’ve fought hard all year and even during this stretch, I feel like we’ve been fighting, just haven’t been able to come up in the big moments.

“Just obviously frustrating. Nobody wants it more than us. Definitely just been tough, for sure.”

The Cubs had two late home runs — a Jeimer Candelario solo shot in the 8th and then an Ian Happ solo blast in the 9th to tie the game.

But the Cubs couldn’t mount any offense in the 10th against Caleb Boushley, who was making his major-league debut. The Cubs had loaded the bases in the extra frame, but Patrick Wisdom struck out to kill the threat.

The Brewers got to starter Kyle Hendricks, scoring 3 runs off the veteran in the 5th and chasing him from the game en route to a 3-2 win and Miami scored 4 times in the 8th to rally and see their magic number dwindle to just 1. The Cubs’ playoff hopes, as promising as they looked just a few weeks ago, could be over in less than 24 hours.

“We’ve made some mistakes,” manager David Ross said. “Feels like maybe a little bit of a tightness. But they’ve played with a lot of energy all year long. I don’t think I see a lack of energy, a lack of focus, just some things aren’t going our way right now.”

Count the offense’s slow start Friday as one of those things not going the Cubs’ way.

Brewers’ starter Colin Rea, who had a 4.74 ERA this season and hadn’t started since Sept. 8, stymied the Cubs. The former Cub pitched 5 innings of shutout ball, striking out 6 and allowing just 2 hits.

In the 3rd, Morel had a hustle double to left field with one out, but the Cubs failed to advance him. Two innings later, after a leadoff single from Seiya Suzuki, Swanson followed with a double play grounder to kill the threat.

To make things worse for the Cubs, they lost Nico Hoerner in the 7th inning. The second baseman fouled a ball off his left kneecap in his 6th inning at-bat. He was checked out by manager David Ross and trainer Nick Frangella but stayed in the game. He grounded out to shortstop and played defense in the bottom of the 6th.

He was taken out one frame later, replaced by Miles Mastrobuoni at second and then Patrick Wisdom pinch hit for Mastrobuoni and played second for the first time in his major league career. 

The Cubs announced that Hoerner suffered a left knee contusion, but the X-rays were negative.

“Nico’s obviously a staple in this team and somebody that’s really, really tough and grinds at it every single day,” Swanson said. “Unfortunately, for him, he just wasn’t able to fight through this one. For him to come out, obviously you know it’s something pretty crappy.”

The Cubs will turn to Jordan Wicks on Saturday and hope they can get some help from the Pirates to keep their season alive. But even then, the Cubs would have to win Saturday and Sunday and the Marlins would have to lose on Saturday and Sunday and then drop the final frame of the 9th inning in the makeup of the suspended game on Monday to the Mets. 

“I mean we have a group that hasn’t quit all year. It’s not gonna happen tomorrow,” Happ said. “We’re gonna come out and play really hard. Probably be another close game, have everybody on the edge of their seats, but we’ll come out tomorrow and do it again.”

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