Cubs outlasted in marathon as Wild Card race tightens

September 17th, 2023

PHOENIX -- A somber feeling loomed over the Cubs’ clubhouse at Chase Field after a frustrating 7-6 loss in 13 innings to the D-backs on Saturday night.

The loud postgame silence in the clubhouse has been all too familiar lately. The Cubs suffered their seventh loss in the past nine games. Five of those defeats came to the D-backs, another team chasing a playoff berth.

  • Games remaining (13): at AZ (1), vs. PIT (3), vs. COL (3), at ATL (3), at MIL (3).
  • Standings update: The Cubs (78-71) are 6 1/2 games behind the Brewers (84-64) for first place in the NL Central. The Cubs and Brewers have split the season series so far, so the tiebreaker has not yet been determined. Chicago sits in the second National League Wild Card spot, trailing the Phillies (81-67) by 3 1/2 games, and holds a half-game lead over the third-seeded Reds (78-72). The D-backs (78-72) have the same record as Cincinnati, but the Reds hold that tiebreaker. The Marlins and Giants are also in the hunt. The Cubs have won the tiebreaker over San Francisco, but lost it to Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Miami and -- after Friday’s loss -- Arizona.

This loss came in the longest game of the 2023 MLB season, lasting four hours and 24 minutes. There were six score changes in extra innings before Gabriel Moreno’s RBI single in the 13th inning off Hayden Wesneski gave the D-backs the victory.

“We got another one tomorrow,” said Dansby Swanson, who went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts. “I think it was a good experience obviously for so many of us. I feel like we haven't really played too many extra-innings games this year. And that's like a playoff-like game and atmosphere. So definitely a good learning experience for us.”

For now, the North Siders remain in second place in the National League Wild Card standings, but their window of opportunity to gain ground is closing. There are 13 games remaining in the season, and there are four teams right behind the Cubs in the postseason chase.

As much as this loss hurts the Cubs, it shows the fight that manager David Ross has seen from his club all season and will be key as the season nears its end.

“This team's been really resilient all year,” Ross said. “We've had some tough losses and walk-offs. We’ve handled them before. We got to do a lot of little things better. They continue to fight you.

“[It was] a long, hard-fought game back and forth there at the end. We couldn't finish it today.”

“All you can do is move on to tomorrow,” said Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk over 5 1/3 innings. “We've done a really good job at that. I mean, it's tough in there right now, but all the leaders will soak it in for a minute and then just flush it.

“It just takes a short memory and the ability to come out here tomorrow and put everything in the past and come out and be ready to win a ballgame.”

Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner combined to go 4-for-11 with two RBIs. Cody Bellinger went 1-for-5 with an RBI single that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning, but the inning prior, Bellinger had what could have been his 26th home run of the season overturned as replay review showed that it landed just to the right of the right-field foul pole.

The injury-plagued bullpen shined for the Cubs. Jose Cuas escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, Julian Merryweather allowed zero hits over two innings and Drew Smyly went 2 1/3 high-leverage innings. The bullpen covered 7 1/3 total innings and allowed just one earned run, which was the game-winning score.

“Unfortunately, we came up on the losing end, but I think the important thing is like we still kind of control our own destiny,” said Mark Leiter Jr. “It’s just a matter of playing good baseball, not riding the waves too much of the day to day, but that was a really, really good game.”

The Cubs culminate a week-long road trip against the D-backs on Sunday Night Baseball. They’ll have an off-day on Monday before they begin a homestand against the Pirates and Rockies, both of whom have records well under .500.

“As far as the atmosphere, we just want to get back to Wrigley,” Hendricks said. “I’m sure this week back at home is really going to feel like some playoff games for us.”