The Cubs were hoping to shake off a couple blowout losses in Minnesota with a win in Houston on Monday night. They were able to rally back from an early deficit, but the Astros hit a late homer to take the first game of the series.
Chicago starter Jameson Taillon ran into big problems in the bottom of the 1st inning, when a pair of singles put two on with two out for former White Sox slugger José Abreu. The slugger hit a fly ball deep to left center that Christopher Morel, playing his first game in left field all season, misjudged allowing it to drop in for a two-run double.
Jeremy Peña singled and Chas McCormick doubled to put Houston ahead 4-0 after the opening frame. The Cubs were able to get runners on base against Astros starter Framber Valdez and drove up his pitch count in the first couple innings.
Chicago finally broke through in the top of the 4th beginning with a Yan Gomes sacrifice fly. Morel then atoned for his fielding miscue with a massive three-run home run to tie the score. Both starting pitchers had short evenings and the respective bullpens kept things even into the 7th inning.
To infinity and beyond! ☄️ pic.twitter.com/UWOkl4OKSN
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 16, 2023
In the bottom of that frame, reliever Michael Fulmer got another chance in a high-leverage situation and made a mistake the Cubs paid for immediately. Alex Bregman got a hanging slider and launched a game-winning two-run shot into the Crawford Boxes in left. Houston closed out the final two innings with very little drama and Chicago dropped their third straight 6-4. (Box score)
Obviously, this might’ve been a different game if the Astros don’t score in the opening inning. In Morel’s defense, the ball was hit hard and he had never played left field in the very unusual Minute Maid Park. Still, it was a ball Statcast said had a 90% catch probability.
Why the Cubs Lost
They were unable to score outside of one big inning and they continue to have difficulty identifying bullpen pieces to use in close games. It seems like all of the relievers have been very inconsistent in the early going.
Stats That Matter
- Taillon settled down after the rough beginning and gave the Cubs a decent effort: 4.2 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 1 K, and 1 BB.
- Trey Mancini had a single and a walk in his return to Houston Monday.
- Cody Bellinger made an outstanding catch at the wall to rob extra bases in the 7th inning, but he tweaked his left leg and had to leave the game.
At least that game was competitive after the last two beatdowns. Monday’s game demonstrated the good and the bad of playing young guys like Morel. The occasional errors and the strikeouts are worth it when you see the kind of immense power and ability he has.