Short start, key error, wild finish doom Cubs in costly 9-8 loss to Padres in 10 inning
SAN DIEGO — Maybe if not for Ben Zobrist’s second throwing error in as many nights, Cubs starter Jose Quintana follows up his quick first inning with a productive start instead of all the hard contact that followed.
Maybe if reliever Steve Cishek didn’t think he could “get away with a couple” of pitches in the 10th inning because of umpire CB Bucknor’s strike zone the previous nine innings he wouldn’t have walked those three guys in the ninth to force in the winning run.
Either way, a four-homer comeback by the Cubs against a pedestrian Padres club was wasted in a 9-8 loss that prevented them from closing ground on the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central.
It also allowed the Brewers and Phillies to close to one and 1 1⁄2 games back of the Cubs for the final NL wild-card spot when both won Tuesday night.
“That’s a mistake I can’t make early in the game,” said Zobrist, who sailed a wide throw to second on a would-be double play for the second time in as many nights.
If the double play had been turned, the Cubs would have been out of the second inning with only one run scored and a 2-1 lead. Instead, three runs scored on the bases-loaded grounder by the pitcher in what turned into a five-run inning.
Zobrist said “maybe” he would have been sharper on that play the last two nights if he hadn’t missed nearly four months this season for personal family issues until returning this month.
“That’s the honest answer is `maybe,’ “ he said. “I’d like to be fresh. But I am where I’m at right now, and I’ll try to get fresh for tomorrow and see if I can help the club tomorrow.”
That was made at least problematic in the fourth inning when he fouled a ball off his knee, then was replaced when the team took the field for the bottom of the inning.
“It’s all right. It’s a little swollen,” he said afterward.
Manager Joe Maddon suggested it’s doubtful Zobrist will start as originally planned Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Cubs came all the way back on the strength of a pair of two-run homers by Kris Bryant and a second, tying home run by Jason Heyward in the eighth to force extra innings.
But after using five of his most reliable, available relievers to get to the 10th, Maddon went to perhaps his most reliable veteran of the last two seasons — Cishek, who got the first out but then gave up a single and two walks to load the bases for leadoff-man Manuel Margot.
The Cubs brought right fielder Nick Castellanos in as a fifth infielder, but Cishek didn’t throw another strike, and the game was over four pitches later.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I still needed to do the job,” said Cishek, a ground-ball pitcher who was fishing for one from Margot.
“We didn’t see that coming,” said Maddon, whose remaining bullpen options included four pitchers who worked Monday night, along with two career minor leaguers and the struggling Pedro Strop.
And two of the guys who worked Monday — lefties Brad Wieck and Derek Holland — were non-considerations because of Margot’s extreme splits against lefties.
“Even after he walked a couple guys I still believe he’s going to right himself,” Maddon said. “He’s a ground-ball guy. He’s the best guy for us under those circumstances to throw a ball into the five-man infield. It just wasn’t there for him.”