The Cubs are on the brink of postseason elimination.
Wednesday, the No. 6 seed Marlins came into Wrigley Field and stole Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series, taking down Cubs 5-1.
The Cubs must win the final two games of the first-round best-of-three — Thursday and Friday at Wrigley — to keep their season alive.
Starter Kyle Hendricks wasn’t his sharpest self on Wednesday but pitched out of tight spots in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. But Miami broke through in the seventh, and Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings.
Quick takes from Game 1:
One too many
Hendricks was able to work around several jams, but one swing ended his day in the seventh.
After consecutive one-out singles by Miguel Rojas and Chad Wallach, Corey Dickerson launched an opposite-field, three-run home run to left field on Hendricks’ 106th pitch, putting Miami up 3-1.
Hendricks didn’t allow three runs in a single September start.
"I wasn't totally sharp, to be honest, but I felt I made a lot of good pitches today," Hendricks said. "In the seventh I felt great; I felt really strong. Just like my previous outings, kind of got better as the game went along.”
Miami also threatened to break through in each of the previous three innings, but Hendricks kept them at bay. A look at those missed opportunities:
-Fourth inning: leadoff double by Jesús Aguilar
-Fifth inning: two on (hit by pitch, E6) and nobody out
-Sixth inning: leadoff double by Starling Marte
"I thought he was executing pretty well when he needed to," David Ross said. "I didn't really feel like he gave up a lot of hard contact today. I felt like he was off the barrel a lot.
"I thought he manipulated the lineup well, pitched out of some jams we put him in. I thought he did a nice job today.
In 12 regular season starts, Hendricks never walked more than two batters. In those same 12 starts, he hit a single batter.
On Wednesday, he surrendered three free passes, in addition to hitting one batter. None came around to score, however.
Equally as uncharacteristic was a throw by shortstop Javier Báez in the fifth inning. He made a nice play on a tough one-hop smash by Rojas, only for his throw to sail at first base. He was charged with an error, and Anthony Rizzo’s leaping grab kept Rojas from taking an extra base.
The Cubs finished 2020 (granted, a shortened season) with their lowest batting average at Wrigley Field in franchise history. Those struggles carried over into Game 1, as Cubs hitters went 4-for-31 at the dish.
"Give some credit to [Alcantara], but we didn't swing it well today," Ross said.
Alcantara obviously had something to say about that, allowing three hits in his 6 2/3 innings, walking three with four strikeouts.
Ian Happ's fifth inning home run was one of the three tallies.
Miami scored five times in the seventh inning on a pair of home runs (Dickerson and Aguilar). The last time they scored at least five in an inning in the postseason was Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, against the Cubs at Wrigley.
Considering this is the Marlins’ first playoff appearance since 2003, that note isn’t too surprising. It does bring back memories, however, and Cubs fans need not be reminded of what happened that game.
“I think just being a part of that — or a small part of that — has been really special for me. And I’m really trying not to take for granted and overlook the fact that I have been lucky enough to have been in three out of four playoffs now in my career. I think that that’s really special.” –Ian Happ on being part of the Cubs’ run of five postseason berths in six seasons.
The Cubs and Marlins meet again in Game 2 on Thursday at Wrigley Field. First pitch is at 1:08 p.m. on ABC.
Yu Darvish (8-3, 2.01 in 12 regular season starts) and Sixto Sánchez (3-2, 3.46, seven starts) are the probable starters.