It’s a bit of old baseball wisdom that it’s better to pull a starting pitcher a batter too early than to leave him in for a batter too long. In Wednesday’s first game of the wild-card series between the Cubs and Marlins, one batter too many proved the difference.
Miami beat Chicago 5-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the series, scoring all of their runs during the 7th inning. After falling behind 1-0 on an Ian Happ solo homerun in the 4th, Corey Dickerson hit a three-run shot against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who was at over 100 pitches at the time.
“That wasn’t a bad pitch, he just jumped on it,” Hendricks said.
The first-pitch fastball that Dickerson took deep to give the Marlins the lead was preceded by back-to-back singles. At that point, Hendricks was at 105 pitches, but Cubs manager David Ross opted to let him continue.
“He had pretty good history with [Dickerson]. I trust in Kyle right there,” Ross said.
The Cubs manager said after Wednesday’s game that he felt like his starter had done a nice job of inducing poor contact and bad swings, so he felt right about leaving him on the mound.
“I thought he was executing pretty well when he needed to, not a lot of hard contact,” Ross said. “He was off of the barrel a lot. I thought he manipulated the lineup really well.”
The Cubs offense struggled against Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara, collecting three hits including Happ’s solo homer.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo said that the offense was looking to jump on Alcantara’s fastball and just didn’t come through.
Miami added on after Dickerson’s homerun drove Hendricks from the game. Starling Marte singled off of reliever Jeremy Jeffress to set the table for a two-run blast by Jesus Aguilar that gave the Marlins a 5-1 lead.
The Cubs came into the series as the three seed in the National League and Central division champions. Miami grabbed the six seed with a series win over the New York Yankees in the final weekend of the season. After being sidelined as a team early in the season with a coronavirus outbreak, the Marlins finished 31-29 for second place in the National League East.
For game two, the Cubs will roll with Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish to try and stave off early elimination. The Marlins will have rookie fireballer Sixto Sanchez on the hill.
The Cubs and Marlins will play game two of the wild card series Thursday at 2:00 ET.