Kimbrel's Meltdown Leaves Cubs' Season On Brink

The Cardinals homered twice off Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning of a 9-8 win.

Bruce Levine
September 21, 2019 - 7:53 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The longest nine-inning game in Cubs history may have been the death knell for the team's playoff hopes. 

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The Cubs fell 9-8 to the Cardinals in a 4-hour, 24-minute marathon at Wrigley Field on Saturday, leaving their playoff hopes on life support. The Cubs' fifth straight loss dropped them to six games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and 2.5 games behind the Brewers for the second wild-card spot. Milwaukee led Pittsburgh 5-1 in the fifth inning of their game Saturday night.

On a wild day, it was a meltdown from closer Craig Kimbrel that doomed the Cubs at the end. Looking to protect an 8-7 lead in the top of the ninth, Kimbrel allowed solo homers to Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong on back-to-back pitches. Both jumped on first-pitch fastballs.

"First and second pitches of the inning, I felt I made two competitive pitches I wanted to," Kimbrel said. "They both went out. It's just frustrating. That is the only thing I can say."

It was the second straight outing that Kimbrel suffered the loss, as he allowed the go-ahead homer to Matt Carpenter in the Cardinals' win in 10 innings Thursday. Kimbrel has allowed a career-high nine homers this season -- despite logging just 20 2/3 innings after he went unsigned until early June.

"It was a great game where both teams fought back," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You need 16-ounce gloves there. We had the right guy in there at the end. You talk about two shots to the jaw like boom, boom and they got the win."

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo acknowledged it was one of the toughest losses he could remember suffering.

"It doesn't matter this time of the year," said Rizzo, who went 3-for-5 as he continues to play through an ankle injury. "A loss is a loss. Especially with seven games left, it sucks.

"It's tough. Craig is a Hall of Fame closer. He has a track record for a reason. You never want to see anyone give up runs. We have his back. It is rough, but he is a competitor and champion. He will bounce back."

The Cubs were in a position to win because of Tony Kemp's two-run homer in the seventh inning. He delivered that big hit after getting second life, as what appeared to be a strikeout for him was nullified when second-base umpire Bill Welke called a balk on Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos.

The Cubs had one last chance in the bottom of the ninth, but Javier Baez struck out against Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez with the tying run on first base in his first plate appearance since suffering a thumb fracture on Sept. 1.

"It was hard especially with him out there throwing 100 miles per hour," Baez said. "It was tough, but you have to give it a try and do everything you can for the team."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.