By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs led the Yankees for 8 2/3 innings Friday before reality set in.
An overworked bullpen proved to be vulnerable when Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner drove a low slider from Cubs reliever Hector Rondon into right field for a go-ahead three-run homer. What was a daunting loss for the Cubs was an epic 3-2 win for the Yankees at Wrigley after they’d been down to their final strike.
The Cubs bullpen had been worn out Thursday in a 13-inning win against the Phillies in which manager Joe Maddon used seven relievers. On Friday, Cubs closer Wade Davis — who is 7-of-7 this season in save chances — wasn’t available to pitch after working three consecutive days.
Rondon worked in Davis’ place and allowed a base hit to Chase Headley and walked Jacoby Ellsbury before Gardner’s blast into the teeth of 25-mph wind.
“We were short in the bullpen this afternoon,” a bummed-out Maddon said afterward. “That was (Rondon’s) game. From the side, he looked pretty good. It was an unfortunate choice of where he threw it. That was probably the only pitch Gardner could hit out, and we gave it to him.”
Chicago scored in the first inning on a Kris Bryant solo homer and in the sixth on a Kyle Schwarber solo homer, but the challenge of getting the run off former Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman proved to be too much. After Addison Russell reached second on an error to lead off the inning, Jason Heyward struck out, Willson Contreras grounded out and Javier Baez struck out to end it.
This marked the first time the Cubs had lost this season when leading entering the ninth inning, as they had been 12-0.
“Hector pitched really good,” Contreras said. “He made one little mistake and paid for it. We are in the big leagues. The guy made an adjustment. If you don’t throw the right pitch in the right spot, it was the right pitch but not in the right spot.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.