The Cubs dropped Game 1 in the Wild Card Round and manager David Ross deserves his share of the blame.
Chicago Cubs Game 1 starter Kyle Hendricks wasn’t necessarily dominating the Miami Marlins, but through six innings of work, Hendricks had allowed just two hits and no runs. The Cubs had just scored the game’s first run an inning earlier after Ian Happ went to left-center field, giving Hendricks a chance for the win.
Cubs manager David Ross had mentioned before Wednesday afternoon’s game that he felt his team had two aces in Hendricks and Yu Darvish, who will start in Game 2. But clearly, Ross felt confident in sending one his aces back on the mound in the 7th inning of Game 1, despite Hendricks walking three batters and nearing 100 pitches.
It was clear that Hendricks didn’t quite have his best stuff and the Marlins were starting to take advantage, giving up two consecutive singles to Miguel Rojas and Chad Wallach. Reliever Jeremy Jeffress was warming up in the bullpen after Hendricks had allowed the tying and winning run to reach base.
It seemed like a no-brainer move for Ross to remove his starter and allow the bullpen to takeover the rest of the way, but he stuck with Hendricks to face left-handed hitter Corey Dickerson, and he made the Cubs pay.
A notorious Cubs-killer from his days with the Pirates, Dickerson got the Marlins on the board and gave them the lead with one swing, immediately crushing the Cubs and their momentum.
Jeffress would come in to relieve Hendricks, who finished the game going 6.1 IP, five hits, three walks and the three runs allowed on the homer, and he couldn’t stop the bleeding at that point, allowing two more runs to score.
It didn’t help that the Cubs’ offense scored just one run and mustered just three hits against Sandy Alcantara, who also didn’t have his best stuff. After the Cubs went down 5-1 in the 7th, only two hitters were able to reach base in the final three innings.
Ross after the game told Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun-Times he did have some concerns over the righty/lefty matchup as Starling Marte was due up after Dickerson, but he decided to stick with Hendricks. It cost the Cubs this game.
“You trust in the guy that got you there,” Ross said. “And trusting all year long he’s done nothing but perform.”
This game wasn’t decided entirely on that decision; it didn’t help the Cubs’ three best players in Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined to go 1-12 with four strikeouts. But Ross needed to have a quicker hook with Hendricks here, especially after allowing two singles with an exit velocity over a 100 mph.
However, this was his first postseason game as a manager and his team was three innings and an unlikely Kyle Hendricks implosion away from winning this game. With Yu Darvish pitching Thursday in an elimination game, expect Ross to have a much shorter leash for his starters going forward … should the Cubs avoid elimination, that is.