A Cubs rotation down two starters didn’t get off on the best foot in Adbert Alzolay’s first start since Tyler Chatwood and José Quintana landed on the injured list.
Alzolay wasn't sharp in his start in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader with St. Louis, getting pulled in the third inning. He pitched a solid first two innings before walks and an error caught up to him.
The Cardinals took a 4-1 lead in the fourth, scoring twice off Ryan Tepera, but Jason Adam kept the Cubs in the game with two shutout, hit-less innings. However, outside of Ian Happ, who made a big return to the Cubs lineup, the offense struggled against Cards veteran Adam Wainwright, who pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball.
Some quick takes from the game.
Walks and errors
Alzolay got off to a good start Saturday, pitching two scoreless innings while working around a two-on, no-out jam in the second frame after a Kris Bryant error. But the free passes and another error caught up to him in the third. After allowing back-to-back singles to start the inning, Alzolay loaded the bases on a walk with one out.
Alzolay spun a potential inning-ending double play grounder to Bryant, but Nico Hoerner's relay popped out of Anthony Rizzo’s glove, allowing St. Louis to tie the game at 1. Alzolay walked the next two on four pitches each, the second forcing in the go-ahead run and ending his day.
The 25-year-old threw 78 pitches in 2 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and two earned runs while walking five. He struck out four.
The Cubs had a golden scoring chance in the second, when they loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk, hit by pitch and single, but came up empty-handed. Steven Souza Jr. struck out looking, Hoerner lined out to second base and Happ grounded into a fielder’s choice.
The Cubs’ bases loaded woes this season are well-documented — they entered play Saturday with a .205/.235/.273 slash line in 51 plate appearances. Granted, some of those chances have been with two outs, but Saturday’s was not. And while Hoerner and Happ put good wood on the ball, the Cubs didn’t capitalize on a great chance.
Happ Happ Hooray
Happ quickly made it clear that his eye is OK in his return to the starting lineup.
Happ missed Friday’s game after a scary incident Thursday in which he hit a foul ball that deflected off the ground and into his face near his right eye. But in his first at-bat Saturday, he drilled a leadoff home run off the right field video board at Wrigley Field.
Happ wasn’t done there. In the fifth, he hit an opposite field blast for his 12th home run of the season. He finished the day 2-for-4.
In between those homers, the Cubs offense went 2-for-15 with two singles, one walk and a hit by pitch.
Keep it going?
“I have enjoyed it. I think it’s smart for the health [of the players], especially this season. I definitely would think [MLB is] looking into carrying that on. I’m not privy to those conversations, but I’ve heard good feedback around the league.” –David Ross on seven-inning doubleheaders.
The Cubs and Cardinals wrap up their doubleheader 35-45 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1. Both clubs will have a ‘bullpen day’ in Game 2.