Cubs

Cubs fall short in sloppy, rain-soaked game at Wrigley

Cubs fall short in sloppy, rain-soaked game at Wrigley

At one point, there were almost more seagulls (and ducks!) on the field than fans in the stands while the game was still being played.

That's how awful the weather got at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon, where the Cubs dropped an ugly, rain-soaked game 6-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs walked 10 batters, committed three errors (leading to two unearned runs), had only six hits and struck out 10 times in a game that took more than five-and-a-half hours to complete (including a two-hour rain delay).

Every ball in the air became an adventure for both teams.

"That was a very awkward day to play baseball," said Joe Maddon, who compared Friday's elements to some of the worst weather he's ever played/managed through.

The announced crowd of 36,923 never quite materialized thanks to a first-pitch temperature that felt like 37 degrees thanks to 17 mph winds. Throw in the constant smattering of rain and the conditions were downright miserable to watch a game in.

But with a ton of rain forecasted for Saturday, the Cubs and Brewers didn't want to take the chance they'd have to make up two games later in the season.

Things were tough for the Cubs from the outset as Eddie Butler walked the first two batters of the game, both of whom came around to score on a two-out single up the middle by Milwaukee catcher Jett Bandy.

Butler — coming off an impressive debut (six shutout innings) in St. Louis over the weekend — only allowed those two runs, but also recorded just nine outs, needing 92 pitches to do so. The 26-year-old walked five batters and allowed three hits, striking out three.

He admitted he couldn't get a good feel on the baseball due to the conditions, but also didn't use that as an excuse.

"Both teams were playing in it," Butler said. "I needed to find a way to get it done and I didn't do that today."

The Cubs battled back in the third when Keon Broxton dropped Javy Baez's fly ball in center field, allowing the Cubs shortstop to motor into second base. Two batters later, Jon Jay singled Baez home.

Willson Contreras added a two-run single in the fourth and the Cubs held the lead as the rains started to pick up.

But Mike Montgomery struggled with his command in the top of the fifth, allowing two runs to score, giving the Brewers a 4-3 lead.

The conditions only continued to worsen and the game was finally delayed after Kyle Schwarber had to range all the way into the infield dirt for a fly ball that clanked off his glove. He compounded the initial error by trying to get a force at second base, but his diving throw wound up in right field instead, leading to two errors on the same play.

As the Brewers runners settled into second and third to start out the sixth inning, the game was finally suspended and the tarp stretched out over the infield.

"That ball should never happen," Maddon said. "That's why they pulled the tarp. ... When a play like that occurs, that also points in the direction that probably the conditions weren't baseball-esque. Please don't blame Schwarber. That's very unjust. The wind and where that ball blew back to, he made a great attempt on it, actually. That's normally the shortstop's ball, but under the circumstances, it was up for grabs, basically."

But after the ball smacked off his glove, should Schwarber have tried to flip it to second?

"He doesn't practice a backhand flip from 40 feet away on a daily basis," Maddon deadpanned. "He was just trying to make a play. If he had made it, it would've been outstanding. But I'm not gonna criticize that." 

When play resumed one hour and 59 minutes later, Domingo Santana greeted Cubs rookie Pierce Johnson — making his MLB debut — with another two-run single to close out the scoring in the afternoon/evening.

Johnson said he couldn't really tell how bad the conditions truly were since he was tucked away in the Cubs bullpen under the left-field bleachers. But when he walked through the doors onto the playing field, he was hit with the wind and rain and said his glasses/goggles actually fogged up initially.

Still, he was happy-go-lucky about the opportunity to make his big-league debut, even if the weather was dreadful.

"That's not how I drew it up," Johnson said. "What an amazing experience. That was so much fun to be out there and finally get out the for the first time and really kinda calm those nerves a bit. Had an absolute blast and got the first one out of the way."

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

chrisbosiochanges.jpg
USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, a source confirming the team declined a club contract option for next year and made a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

chrisbosiofired.jpg
USA TODAY

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

In Theo Epstein's end of season press conference on Friday he said that any coach Joe Maddon wants back will return in 2018.

Evidently, there's one coach Maddon didn't want back.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Cubs have fired longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Bosio served as the Cubs pitching coach from 2012-17. He was the team's pitching coach under former managers' Dale Sveum (2012-13) and Rick Renteria (2014), and was retained when Maddon was hired as manager of the Cubs in 2015.

Bosio, who is one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball, was instrumental in the career resurgence of Jake Arrieta who captured the Cy Young award in 2015, and the development of 27-year-old starter Kyle Hendricks (MLB's ERA leader in 2016).

One reason that could've led to Bosio's firing was the pitching staff's control issues during both the regular season and postseason, which Epstein mentioned during Friday's press conference. The Cubs issued the fifth-most walks (554) in the National League during the regular season and the highest total (53) during the postseason.

As the Cubs hit the market for a new pitching coach, Nightengale mentioned that one name that could be on the radar is former Tampa Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who parted ways with the organization following the 2017 season.

Hickey served as Maddon's pitching coach in Tampa Bay from 2006-2014.