Playoff celebration on hold as Cubs lose to Pirates


Playoff celebration on hold as Cubs lose to Pirates

Hold the confetti. Keep the champagne bottles corked. Unplug the smoke machine.

For a few hours, at least.

The Cubs could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory Friday, but instead came away with a 3-2 loss to the Pirates in front of 40,432 fans at Wrigley Field.

The defeat forced the Cubs to wait and watch the scoreboard to see the outcome of the Giants-A's game late Friday night in Oakland. With the Cubs' magic number at one, a Giants loss would put the North Siders into the playoffs.

The Cubs couldn't do much against Gerrit Cole - whom Pittsburgh will likely throw in the wild-card game - as they managed just four hits and a run off the Pirates ace.

[MORE CUBS: Gerrit Cole getting stronger as wild card game vs. Cubs looms]

Joe Maddon doesn't believe the young Cubs are putting any undue pressure on themselves right now.

"I don't sense anything negative from our group," Maddon said. "Our group's fabulous. They come to play every day. It was a well-played baseball game.

"If you're a Cubs fan - or just a baseball fan in general - you have to have loved what you saw out there today."

The Cubs rallied in the ninth when pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia doubled to lead off the inning against Pirates closer Mark Melancon and came around to score on Starlin Castro's triple. But Jorge Soler and Javy Baez struck out to end the game, stranding the tying run just 90 feet away.

Jon Lester started for the Cubs and allowed just two runs on five hits in seven innings, but was still saddled with the tough-luck loss.

Cole knocked in the first run of the game in the third inning when he drove Lester's pitch past Russell and into center field to plate Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Pirates tacked on in the seventh on a Michael Morse single and then scored again in the eighth when Mercer reached on a dropped third strike and came around to score on Starling Marte's groundout.

The Cubs are now 4.5 games behind the Pirates in the bid to host the one-game wild-card playoff.

With a Noon game Saturday, will the Cubs be staying up late to watch the Giants, who kick off their game at 9 p.m.?

"[I'll check the score] probably when I have to go to the bathroom at night," Maddon joked.

Lester said there was "no chance" he'd stay up to watch the late game. Catcher David Ross admitted he won't be up late celebrating because "these old bones don't get up too early after a late night of drinks."

If the Cubs do clinch a playoff berth overnight, rest assured - there will be a celebration at some point.

"We're not a team that misses out on celebration," Chris Coghlan said.

"We'll show up tomorrow and hopefully celebrate tomorrow," Lester said. "We'll have a good time and let these guys that have never experienced this really enjoy it. Hopefully they don't hold anything back.

"I know we got another week or so to go. A lot of things can happen, but not too many guys get the opportunity to play in the postseason, so I hope guys really soak it in.

"I've played with a few guys through the years - Adam Dunn, in particular - who waited 15 years to get to a one-game playoff. Hopefully these guys make sure they enjoy it when we do get it."

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

With their postseason hopes fading by the day and the Cubs needing him most, Yu Darvish delivered on Sunday.

And yet, the game ended in a far-too familiar way for the Cubs: with a 3-2 loss, the Cubs’ fifth-straight one-run defeat — and third since Thursday when they were tied or leading in the ninth inning or later.

“If you just play back the tape, it’s almost unbelievable that it turned out this way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Also, the games against Cincinnati. For the last six, this is really wash and repeat. Of course it’s frustrating."

Darvish was extremely emotional postgame, as evidenced by a mud stain spread across his locker resulting from an anger-laced throw of his cleat. He pitched well — 8 1/3 innings, three earned runs, 12 strikeouts and no walks — only running into trouble in the ninth.

“I’m so frustrated, you can see it, right?” he said, looking back at his locker. “We have to win, especially today, but we lost.”

The 33-year-old right-hander was rolling heading into the ninth, which started off with pinch-hit triple by Jose Martinez that hit off Albert Almora Jr.’s glove, despite a valiant diving effort.

“It sucks that we couldn’t win that game,” Almora said. “I really wanted to make that play there. Can’t catch them all, but I tried.”

For what it’s worth, Craig Kimbrel didn’t pitch Sunday because he was unavailable, though Maddon said he would’ve stuck with Darvish even if his closer was available.

"I was happy at that point, but right now everything just….There’s no words right now," Darvish said.

That’s neither here nor there, though. What matters is that the Cubs lost another game that they seemed to have in their grasp, only to see it slip away late. They're now eliminated from NL Central contention, and their elimination number in the Wild Card race is three.

Even Maddon struggled to explain the series, one where the Cubs played quite well but only saw their playoff hopes take a big hit.

“It’s really difficult,” he said. “You look at it, how did that all happen? How did we lose all those four games? They were just one runner better than us every night and they were really evenly matched. That’s all I will concede.”

Although Darvish admitted he feels responsible for Sunday’s loss, Maddon spoke highly of the right-hander, even comparing how he's pitched to what Jake Arrieta did during his tenure with the Cubs. 

“I saw Jake pitch really well and win a Cy Young, but this is equivalent of all of that,” he said. “The stuff, command of his stuff. [Darvish] absolutely deserved a better fate.”

Whether you think that Maddon was being too hyperbolic there or not, there’s no doubting that Darvish looked excellent for majority of his outing on Sunday. Baseball is a game of inches, something the Cubs experienced firsthand this weekend.

“They got us. They got us,” Maddon said. “Give them credit for that, but we did not leave anything on the field, man.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki and Kelly Crull discuss the Cardinals sweep, Yu Darvish taking the loss so hard, and what to look for over the final six games of the year.

01:00 - Reaction to being swept by the Cards

03:30 - Darvish taking the loss really hard

05:30 - This is the Yu Darvish Cubs fans thought they were getting when he signed with the Cubs

07:00 - Almora's miscue in the 9th inning of the loss

08:00 - It feels like the end of an era

12:00 - Is this the end of an era for the Cubs?

16:00 - Surprised Rizzo was available on the field for the entire Cardinals series?

20:00 - There is no one thing you can look to that didn't work this season

22:00 - What do you want to see over the final six games?

25:00 - Seeing a cornerstone being helped off the field for a second Sunday in a row

29:00 - How much will we see the injured guys on the field?

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Cubs Talk Podcast