The 5 worst Cubs games of 2023

I thought I’d start this annual series at the end of the year with the bad stuff and then move on to the best games of the year tomorrow.



In other years when I’ve done this retrospective, blowout losses have been the focus of this feature. Not this time. 2023 saw several soul-crushing defeats, some of which led to the Cubs’ collapse in September.

Read if you dare. They are listed in chronological order.

May 17: Astros 7, Cubs 6

The Cubs led 6-1 after three innings, thanks mostly to three home runs. Seiya Suzuki went deep twice and Christopher Morel also homered.

The Cubs held that lead into the bottom of the eighth. Drew Smillie, who pitched very well in the first half of 2023, threw six innings and allowed one run, and Adbert Alzolay threw a scoreless seventh.

Mark Lighter Jr., who had been pitching pretty well until then, was hit. Jeremy Peña led off with a triple and Alex Bregman doubled to make it 6-2. Leiter was able to hit the next two batters, including the dangerous Jordan Alvarez, but Jose Abreu singled in Bregman to make it 6-3.

Yes, Jose Abreu, who had entered the night with a .532 OPS.

Still, a three-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth. What could…

Well, you know the answer to that, or you wouldn’t be reading about this game right now. Keegan Thompson was given the closing assignment. Yainer Diaz singled and Jake Meyers homered to make it 6-5. That took three pitches. Thompson then brought on Mauricio Dubbon and Brandon Hughes came on. It didn’t help as Hughes allowed a double to Peña. Bregman was intentionally walked to load the bases. Alvarez hit into a force play at the plate.

Then this happened [VIDEO].

Kyle Tucker drove in the tying and game-winning runs. David Ross challenged the play of tag at the plate, but it was ruled “call up” and the game ended.

It wouldn’t be the biggest lead the Cubs would blow in 2023.

June 25: Cardinals 7, Cubs 5

The Cubs had just crushed the Cardinals in London the day before, 9-1, and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning of this one. The British sweep seemed okay.

In the bottom of the second, the Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a walk by Marcus Stroman.

Then this happened [VIDEO].

A major league first baseman should make this play, it’s that simple. The first mistake Trey Mancini made was to catch the ball – it was a simple kick on the ground right at Nico Horner. See where Mancini is and where the runner (Tommy Edman) is when Hoerner is ready to throw the ball and throw:

Mancini should have been on base ready for the throw. He eventually got to first in time to meet Nico’s throw, but dropped the ball.

Right there, that particular game shows you the value of good defense at first base. If that play is made, the inning is over and the Cubs still lead 4-0. If so, maybe they’ll keep winning.

Marcus Stroman left the game the next inning with what was reported as a blister, but he never got back on track the rest of the year.

Mancini lasted 20 more games with the Cubs, hitting .196/.232/.235 (10-for-51) with 19 strikeouts, before being released on August 2.

Sept. 1, Game 2: Reds 3, Cubs 2

The Cubs went into the bottom of the ninth leading that game 2-1, and Alzolay, who had been made the closer at that point, came in to finish things off. It was his third outing in four days and sixth in a 10-game stretch, which in retrospect wasn’t a good idea.

Alzolay struck out Elly De La Cruz to start the inning, then Nick Martini — NICK MARTINI?!?! — home run by Alzolai to tie the game. Martini, who had played 25 forgettable games with his hometown Cubs in 2021, somehow managed to hit six times in just 72 at-bats with the Reds in 2023.

A single by Christian Encarnacion-Strand and a Stuart Fairchild pinch hit followed. Will Benson struck out, but Fairchild stole second and took third on a bad throw by Jan Gomes.

Noelvi Marte singled in the winning run. Does the run result if not the error? We’ll never know.

Sept. 16: Diamondbacks 7, Cubs 6

To me, that’s the game, the one game, that ruined the Cubs’ playoff chances.

The match went to extra time, tied 3-3. Both teams scored in the 10th and 11th, but not in the 12th, and the Cubs failed to score in the 13th.

In the bottom of the 13th, the D-backs sacrificed Manfred Man to third. A walk and popout followed, so there were now runners on first and third with two outs.

Then this happened [VIDEO].

It’s simple: If Dansby Swanson catches that ball, it’s game over and the Cubs win. Also, the Diamondbacks are losing! Assuming everything else, after this game happens exactly as it actually did, the Cubs are 84-78 and the D-backs are 83-79 and the Cubs are the No. 6 seed in the playoffs and play the Brewers in a wild-card series.

But Swanson didn’t.

The game was tied, but Gabriel Moreno, the next hitter, singled in the winning run.

Sept. 26: Braves 7, Cubs 6

The Cubs had a 6-0 lead in that game entering the bottom of the sixth. Even after Justin Steele ran out of steam in the sixth and Javier Assad hit a two-run homer in the seventh, the Cubs still led 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth with runners on second and third.

Then this happened [VIDEO].

Seiya Suzuki should have caught that ball but apparently lost it under the lights at Truist Park. If he catches it, the Cubs have a one-run lead heading into the ninth. Instead, two runs scored, giving the Braves a 7-6 lead that became the final score.

Dishonorable mention of another one-run loss in that September series at Cincinnati, 2-1 on Sept. 2, in which the Cubs again took a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth and scored the game-winning run [VIDEO].

Again David Ross asked for a review and again it was announced that the call was upheld.

I promise you’ll like tomorrow’s best Cubs games of 2023 article better.

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