BALTIMORE — For two months and just over 45 innings this season Cubs right-hander Keegan Thompson pitched like a budding National League All-Star.
And then came Tuesday’s 9-3 loss to a crap Orioles team at Camden Yards.
“Tonight was one of those nights that happen in baseball,” catcher Willson Contreras said.
But with a second-year pitcher making his 11th big-league start, it also was a reminder of what the Cubs are doing this year, where they are compared to when, say, Jon Lester might have a similar clunker during a long season on “one of those nights.”
Thompson may yet make that All-Star team, this year or another.
For now, he’s going to work the next four days on what went wrong during a seven-run, three-homer, two-hit-batter flusher that shot his season ERA from 1.99 to 3.17 in a three-inning second.
“A lot of pitches to hit, a lot of stuff in the zone, a lot of breaking stuff with just not a lot of bite,” manager David Ross said. “The first bad night that we’ve see him have.”
For a pitcher getting a shot to prove he can stick as a big-league starter this year, if not as a part of Jed Hoyer’s “next great Cubs team.”
But also growing pains for a team in a second, more awkward, multiyear rebuild by this big-revenue, big-ticket-prices team.
“He’s pitched really well for us, but tonight he didn’t have the command of pitches like he has,” Contreras said. “The fastball command wasn’t there. The breaking balls were a little flat in the zone.”
And the Cubs dropped to 10 games under .500.
It happened with Alec Mills — who finally was activated from the injured Tuesday — making his five-inning season debut in relief of Thompson and allowing just two runs.
And against the backdrop of veteran Wade Miley’s imminent return from the IL in the next few days. With veteran Drew Smyly due back a few weeks behind that.
With less than two months to another selloff.
With four months left to prove something for anybody who might be left after the trade deadline.
With four months left for team president Hoyer and his staff to evaluate what they have before taking a few more bucks into next year’s free agent market and deciding whether to go big or build another crapshoot roster of short-timer trade candidates.
“You’ve got to forget about this one,” Contreras said of Thompson’s outing. “Forget about this one and work on what you have to do to get back on track.”
Thompson’s not the only one.