By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Quality starting pitching has sparked the Cubs’ resurgence and six-game winning streak to start the second half of the season. That streak continued for Chicago on Friday, but the bullpen couldn’t do its job in an 11-4 loss to St. Louis at Wrigley Field.
After Jake Arrieta turned in six innings of five-hit, two-run ball, Cubs relievers Carl Edwards Jr., Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm imploded in the eighth inning, giving up a combined nine runs — all before an out was recorded. The first 11 Cardinals to come up to the plate reached base in the eighth inning, turning a 3-2 lead for the Cubs into a 11-3 deficit.
The Cubs’ bullpen entered the day with a 3.30 ERA, the fourth-best mark in baseball. Then it didn’t do what it usually does, as the Cubs dropped to 49-46 and 1.5 games behind the NL Central-leading Brewers at game’s end.
“We did everything well in that game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Jake pitched well, and we hit the ball in spots. We had a bad inning pitching. That is the third time here (at Wrigley) in a week (that we gave up huge innings). I have not seen that since rookie ball. I am saying straight up, we played good baseball today. We just pitched badly for one inning.”
Since the All -Star break, the Cubs had looked more like the dominant team they were in 2016 than at any point this season, running off their longest winning streak of the season.
“You stick around this game long enough, you will see some crazy things happen,” said Arrieta, who left with a 3-2 lead. “That was just the turning point of the game. A couple of guys had a pretty rare outing. You will likely never see that again from those two guys.”
Neither Edwards nor Rondon could retire a Cardinal. Edwards was charged with three runs and Rondon four. Rondon entered with the bases loaded and no outs after Edwards allowed a lead-off double and walked two Cardinals.
Grimm was just as inept, allowing three hits, two walks and two runs in the eighth inning.
“It was tough to come into that situation,” Rondon said. “We tried to hold the lead. I tried to hold my teammate’s runners too. We all had a plan. It is really tough to have success in those situations. It is what it is.”
Cubs starting pitchers have registered five quality starts in the first seven games of the second half. They’re 33-15 when their starting pitcher goes at least six innings. That continues to give them confidence moving forward, as it was the starting pitching — not the bullpen — that has been a problem this season.
“We feel pretty good about it,” Arrieta said. “We have not gotten too high or too low, even throughout some slumps we have had. I feel we have been able to maintain an even keel. We have stayed focused.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.