In one inning, the game went from a tie to a blowout.
In the Cubs’ 14-4 loss at Milwaukee on Monday, reliever Ryan Tepera took the mound in the eighth inning, with the Cubs relying on him to maintain the knotted score. That was nothing new for Tepera, a member of the Cubs’ “Big Three” at the back end of the bullpen – along with Andrew Chafin and closer Craig Kimbrel.
The game didn’t go according to the Cubs’ script.
“The number was good early on,” Cubs manager David Ross said after Tepera was charged with four runs in 2/3 of an inning. “It looked like he was just running out of gas on the backside.”
Tepera started his outing by striking out Avisaíl García, who went 3-for-5 on the night with three RBI. So far, so good.
Then, Tepera walked the next two batters and gave up an RBI double to Jackie Bradley Jr., who entered the game hitting .154. With his next three pitches, Tepera gave up a sacrifice fly to Tyrone Taylor and an RBI double to Luis Urías.
Trevor Megill, who the Cubs recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Monday, replaced Tepera. On Willy Adames’ three-run homer, the runner Megill inherited from Tepera scored.
“He's been so good for us,” Ross said, “and trust in him even when he doesn't look quite as sharp. He’s carried a heavy load for us, so we’ve got to take a look at that, just making sure he can still stay sharp, or how much rest he might need.”
Ross pointed to Tepera’s velocity as a good sign. His fastball has averaged about 94 mph this season, and 95 mph Monday.
But Tepera’s outing stood in such stark contrast to just four games prior, when he and the rest of the Cubs’ Big Three combined with Zach Davies to throw a no-hitter against the Dodgers.
“The bullpen’s been awesome,” said Cubs outfielder Ian Happ, who went 2-for-4 with a home run Monday. “It's been amazing for them to be able to give us the performance they have, all the way through, not just those back-three guys but everybody in the bullpen’s done such a great job.”
Tuesday was the exception for a bullpen that entered the day with the best ERA in Major League Baseball (2.67), according to FanGraphs.
Megill hadn’t given up a run in four big-league appearances. Then, he allowed six without recording an out on Monday.
In a perfect illustration of how haywire the frame went for the Cubs, infielder Eric Sogard replaced Megill on the mound, the baseball equivalent of waving the white flag.