With the Cubs’ starting pitchers failing to last deep into games, the bullpen has been taxed of late. But on Friday, the Cubs’ defense was the reason for its overuse.
Two errors allowed the Cardinals to score three unearned runs in the first inning and helped elevate Travis Wood’s pitch count, but the Cubs rallied for a 7-6 victory at Wrigley Field.
Second baseman Arismendy Alcantara threw away a potential inning-ending double-play grounder, allowing Matt Carpenter to score from third base. Two batters later, Jon Jay doubled to score two more runs. Jay advanced to third on left fielder Chris Coghlan’s error but was stranded. After two innings, Wood had 66 pitches.
“Mistakes happen,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “They happen to the best of clubs. I think in that particular instance, for us, the thought was, quite frankly, we haven’t really been able to get our starting pitcher through deeper into the ballgame. My concern of that was simply he was extending his pitch count at that point.”
Like the rest of the Cubs, Alcantara rebounded. He had a hit and drew a walk. But Ryan Sweeney owned the day. He had four RBI, including a three-run homer in the second to tie the score. Luis Valbuena hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh after the Cardinals had taken a 6-5 lead in the sixth.
“We just had a rough couple weeks and have to keep a positive attitude and just play with the guys that we have here,” Sweeney said of the Cubs, who are 2-5 since the All-Star Break. “We can’t really look at what’s going on outside. We just got to focus on what we’re doing and play hard every day.”
Wood’s outing can’t be blamed entirely on mistakes in the field. He lasted five innings, throwing 113 pitches. The Cardinals were able to foul off a number of pitches, which also drove up his pitch count.
But for the third time in his last four starts, Wood failed to complete the sixth.
“As a staff, we got to pick it up,” said Wood, who hit his third homer of the season in the fourth. “I had good command of the pitches, missed with a couple, but it happens. But it’s definitely something to build upon.”
First baseman Anthony Rizzo extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single and was hit by a pitch twice. Renteria said that was a result of being pitched inside.