CHICAGO (AP) — No team in the National League piled up more victories than the Chicago Cubs through 162 games. That seems like small consolation now.
Kyle Hendricks gave up a tiebreaking single to Tony Wolters in the 13th inning, sending the Cubs to a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies in a marathon wild-card game on Tuesday night.
Chicago lost two home games with a chance to reach the NL Division Series. The Cubs scored a total of two runs over 22 innings, dropping a tiebreaker to Milwaukee for the NL Central championship and then getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Rockies.
They squandered a dominant start by Jon Lester, got shut down by Kyle Freeland and wasted several big scoring opportunities. Hendricks came in to retire the final two batters in the 12th and got the first two in the 13th before running into trouble.
Trevor Story grounded a single through the left side and Gerardo Parra lined one to right, putting runners at first and third. Wolters — who came into the game as part of a double switch in the 12th — then drove an RBI single up the middle.
In the bottom half, Terrance Gore acted as if he was hit by a tight pitch leading off and ran to first before being ordered back to the box. The Cubs challenged the call to no avail. Gore, Baez and Albert Almora Jr. then struck out, bringing a marathon game and a difficult season to a fitting end.
“We have had a lot of things go awry this year and in spite that have still tied for the most wins in the National League in a 162-game season,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Again, that speaks to the quality of the player in the room of the and even though maybe the numbers offensively didn’t matchup, these guys put up 95 wins.”
The Cubs had a long line of injuries and didn’t get the contributions they expected from some key players, including Yu Darvish and Kris Bryant. That didn’t stop them from going from 4 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in late May to leading the division by five in early September, only to have the Brewers tie them on the final weekend of the regular season.
They got shut down by Jhoulys Chacin in a 3-1 tiebreaker loss to Milwaukee, then had to watch Colorado celebrate after winning the longest win-or-go home game in major league history.
“All I can say is I’m extremely proud of how we’ve come together,” Kris Bryant said.
It was a bitter end for a team that made the NLCS the previous three years and won a World Series in 2016 that ended a drought dating to 1908. A franchise that for decades was defined by heartache has more wins the past four seasons than any other team.
The Cubs beat Pittsburgh in a wild-card game in 2015 after a 97-win breakout regular season that established them championship contenders. But the expectations since then have changed. And this loss stings.
“In 2015, we were winning the wild-card game no matter what,” Rizzo said. “In 2018, I’d say fans were (ticked) that we were in the wild-card game. We had a chance to win the division and we didn’t. We’ve really flipped this culture here.”
The Cubs — who finished fourth in the NL in runs despite being held to one or zero in 39 regular-season games, one fewer than Baltimore for most in the majors — managed just four hits in 6 2/3 innings against Freeland.
Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double-play with two on in the sixth, and they left the bases loaded in the seventh when Jason Heyward struck out.
Chicago had another chance in the 11th.
Baez walked leading off against Seunghwan Oh and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Almora. Daniel Murphy was intentionally walked and Baez got tagged out by Arenado on Willson Contreras’ grounder to third.
As Arenado applied the tag in the middle of the base path between second and third, Baez wrapped his arms around him. Arenado smiled and patted him rather than try a throw to first.
Chris Rusin then retired pinch-hitter Victor Caratini on a grounder to first to end the inning.
“At the end of the day, coming down the stretch I felt like we played good baseball,” Lester said. “I mean, it wasn’t like we beat ourselves. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the opponent. You go 13 innings tonight against a really tough team and we come out on the short end of the stick, but I feel like we should have won that game.”