‘We can’t stop doing that’: Cubs drop another crazy game in Arizona

April 17th, 2024

PHOENIX -- It was déjà vu all over again. Again.

Last September, the Cubs visited Arizona for a series of wild, consequential games. In one, Chicago nearly rallied from down six runs in the ninth inning. In another, the two teams traded extra-inning blows until Arizona finally prevailed in the 13th. The series, which helped cost the Cubs a playoff spot, has remained lodged in their memories.

This week, those memories have resurfaced. One night after claiming a one-run victory over the Diamondbacks in 11 innings, the Cubs helped engineer another barnburner. There were defensive miscues and wild pitches, huge home runs and gut-punching bullpen meltdowns. Chicago could not come out on top on Tuesday night, falling 12-11 in 10 innings on a walk-off hit from Randal Grichuk.

“We can’t stop doing that,” said Cubs outfielder , more in amazement more in amazement at the team's crazy run of games in Arizona than in disappointment at the outcome. “We need to finish a game in nine innings.”

The wild swings of the game produced more turning points than the human mind is built to retain. The Diamondbacks jumped on struggling Cubs starter with two homers in the third, only for Chicago to chase Arizona starter Tommy Henry from the game with a four-run fifth. In the sixth, an inning after the Diamondbacks scored four runs thanks in part to two wild pitches by reliever Luke Little, Statcast gave Arizona a 94-percent chance of winning. In the seventh, after Happ clubbed a go-ahead grand slam to put Chicago ahead, 11-8, the Cubs had an 89-percent shot at claiming the victory.

That probability would rise further, to 90 percent and then 96 percent, until Diamondbacks star Ketel Marte stepped to the plate with Arizona down by one with two outs in the ninth. On the second pitch from Chicago closer , Marte deposited a ball just beyond the fence in right-center -- a shot that survived a replay review -- to tie the game at 11-11. An inning later, Grichuk won the game with a pinch-hit double off .

“We put 11 runs on the board,” said manager Craig Counsell. “We just didn’t pitch well enough tonight.”

If there was any aspect of the game undeserving of being flushed down the drain as an Arizona aberration, it was Chicago’s offensive breakout. The Cubs entered the game on a cold streak, averaging just 3.17 runs over their previous six. After losing outfielder Seiya Suzuki to an oblique injury for up to a month, Chicago desperately needed someone to step up other than rookie slugger Michael Busch, who tied a club record Monday with a homer in five straight games.

Busch’s streak didn’t reach six contests, but the rest of the lineup more than compensated. Happ had three hits, including a double and his grand slam, all of which came against left-handed pitchers, against whom the switch-hitter historically fares worse. fell a homer shy of hitting for the cycle and and both tripled. Chicago’s 11 runs and 14 hits each rank as their second-highest outputs of the season.

“Staying in that one as long as we did, it’d be easy to not have the at-bats we had,” Happ said. “We had good at-bats all day.”

More concerning was the continued scuffling from Hendricks, who allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. Three of those runs came on a pair of third-inning homers by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Joc Pederson, although Hendricks also hit a batter and walked three others to make his night more difficult. He’s now allowed 24 earned runs through four starts in 2024, the worst four-start stretch of his career.

The answers remain elusive for the 34-year-old righty, but the veteran didn’t sound as despondent after the game as he did a start earlier. He made some adjustments, letting Amaya call more pitches behind the plate and working to be less predictable in his attack patterns. A turnaround is in there, he feels, even if it seems far away.

“I feel like I am making progress but it’s still not showing,” Hendricks said. “It’s tough. I’m going to have to go back and watch and break it down again and clearly get back to work.”

After a game like that, there’s nothing for Hendricks and the Cubs to do but move forward. And after several games like that in Arizona, there’s nothing left to do but shrug and say the experience will pay off down the line.

“As long as we’re in them,” Happ said, “we’re doing the right things.”