MILWAUKEE – Cubs manager David Ross saw an opportunity to, as he put it, “go for the game early.” The move backfired in the Cubs’ 9-7 loss to the Brewers on Sunday at American Family Field.
“Sometimes that happens,” he said.
It happened in the fourth inning. Cubs starter Adrian Sampson had allowed one run in three frames, on Hunter Renfroe’s third-inning RBI double. Sampson had given up some hard contact, but he – and a strong defensive effort behind him – limited the damage. To open the fourth inning, Sampson induced a ground-out from Keston Hiura.
With the bottom of the lineup coming up, and the Cubs holding onto a 2-1 lead, Ross walked to the mound to make a pitching change.
“It was shorter than I would have liked it to be,” Sampson said. “But it doesn’t matter how long you’re out there, it’s just one pitch at a time until Rossy comes out there and takes the ball from you.”
He confirmed that he was surprised he didn’t get a longer leash.
“I would say that if I threw 150 pitches, though,” he said.
Asked about his thought process in that moment, Ross cited the hard contact, traffic on the bases – Sampson allowed five hits – and Sampson’s high pitch count each inning. He’d thrown 61 pitches by the time Ross pulled him
“It just looked like he was working really hard,” Ross said, “and I had both lefties down there ready to go in that heavy left-handed lineup. And if they would have pinch-hit for that, then we could have circled back to the right.”
Entering play Sunday, left-handed batters were hitting just .188 against Cubs left-hander Sean Newcomb this season. And Brewers lefty batter Jace Peterson was coming up to bat next.
Ross called for Newcomb with one out in the fourth, and put together his worst outing of the season.
“I didn’t expect it to go that way, for sure,” Ross said. “He’s been throwing the ball well.”
Newcomb gave up three straight singles, and a two-run home run to Christian Yelich, before recording an out. Then, he walked Rowdy Tellez and got out of the inning when catcher Yan Gomes threw out Tellez attempting to steal.
To open the fifth inning, Newcomb issued a walk and gave up a two-run homer to Kolten Wong. Newcomb gave up six runs, a season high, in one inning pitched.
“The fact that he’s been dominating lefties pretty good, and I don’t think he got one [lefty] out, we’ll just look at if there’s something that he’s giving away,” Ross said.
Ross didn’t mention it, but pulling Sampson before the end of the fourth inning also guaranteed the Cubs could get a second replacement player in Toronto.
The Cubs will put Sampson and Steele on the restricted list for the Blue Jays series due to Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements for entry. Teams aren’t allowed replacement players for starters who go over the threshold in their previous start and aren’t lined up to start in the series.