‘Gotta win that game’: Keegan Thompson, Cubs searching for answers after tough sweep in Houston
HOUSTON — Keegan Thompson didn’t mince words.
“Things just aren’t going my way right now,” the righty reliever said after the Cubs dropped a tough, 7-6 game to the Astros. “Just had some hard contact today and this is a punch to the gut, I mean this just sucks. It’s hard. Sucks to let the team down.”
Everything appeared like the Cubs were destined to pick up a much-need win, one that seemed to show their ability to bounce back from some of the offensive issues that were plaguing them during their tough stretch. Instead, it sent them back to the drawing board and hitting the road for Philadelphia trying to stop a season-high 5-game skid.
“We’ve gotta win that game,” manager David Ross said. “We gotta pitch better on the back end. Offense did enough tonight. Played good defense. I thought overall, really nice plays. We’ve gotta cash that one in.”
Thompson has struggled with command all season, his 14.8% walk rate going into Wednesday’s game was the highest of his career and his strikeout rate (18.2%) was the lowest it’s been, too. Wednesday, he allowed a single to the Astros’ backup catcher Yainer Diaz, a home run to Jake Meyers two pitches later and then walked pinch hitter Mauricio Dubón before his night was finished without recording an out.
“Wasn’t very good,” Ross said of Thompson.
Things were setting up pretty for the Cubs — they carried a 5-run lead in the 8th inning and the top of the Astros’ potent lineup due up. So, Ross turned to his best reliever so far this season, Mark Leiter Jr.
The decision was the correct one, if Leiter Jr. could maneuver through that pocket of the lineup — one that had one the league’s best left-handed hitters in Yordan Alvarez due up third and another lefty, Kyle Tucker, behind him — then Thompson, who was on two day’s rest would face the middle to bottom of the order.
But the Astros lineup got to Leiter — Jeremy Peña tripled, Alex Bregman doubled and later scored to cut the deficit to 6-3 before he escaped the jam.
“You’re trying to set guys up for success and matchup things that go well and [it] didn’t go well tonight,” Ross said. “So, you gotta go back to the drawing board, continue to have those guys work and it wasn’t Keegan’s best night, it wasn’t Leiter’s best night. The offense did enough, like I said, we just gotta make better pitches there in the back end.”
Ross turned to Thompson to face the bottom of the lineup, who were a combined 2-for-9 to that point. After one pitch, Ross turned to lefty Brandon Hughes to start warming up in the Cubs’ bullpen.
“They jumped on him early a couple of pitches there and then scared him out of the zone, walked a guy and not gonna wait around at that point,” Ross said. “We gotta get Hughesy in for that lefty pocket coming up, trying to get some punchouts there, but again, gotta be better.”
Hughes allowed a double to Peña, then the Cubs intentionally walked Bregman to load the bases. The lefty induced a ground ball force out at home from Alvarez that kept a game-ending double play intact, but Tucker singled up the middle on a slider down and away and Bregman scored just ahead of a strong throw from Christopher Morel in center field to give the Astros an improbable walk-off win.
“Yeah, the whole thing’s frustrating, for sure,” Ross said. “We’ve got to win that game.”