ATLANTA — When the stakes are high at the end of the season, the wins get bigger and the losses get more painful.
The latter was the case on Tuesday night at Truist Field for the Cubs, as they endured as painful of a finish as they’ve had in the last few years. In fact, it even brought back memories of a loss nearly 25 years ago to the day that played out the same.
After taking a 6-0 lead in the sixth inning against the Braves, the Cubs endured a collapse in the final 3 1/2 frames, dropping a 7-6 decision in Atlanta in a painful loss for their hopes for a National League Wild Card spot.
What makes it most painful is the player at the center of the critical play of the game.
Arguably the Cubs’ best player over the last two months of the season, Seiya Suzuki made a critical error in the bottom of the eighth inning as his team was protecting a one-run lead.
With two on and two out, Sean Murphy lifted a fly ball to right-center field, where Suzuki was in place to make what seemed a routine catch. But he misjudged the fly ball and it fell in, allowing both runners to score to give the Braves the lead.
Raisel Iglesias would send down the Cubs in order in the ninth to preserve the win, which trims their lead for the last Wild Card spot over the Marlins to a half-game after Miami’s game on Monday was postponed due to unplayable conditions at Citi Field.
What makes the situation more difficult is that it happened to Suzuki, who has been a major reason why the Cubs have remained in the playoff hunt.
He’s had an OPS over 1.000 the last two months and since August 1 has a slash line .349/.402/.687 with 14 doubles, three triples, 12 homers & 35 RBI.
On Tuesday, Suzuki drove in two runs on a triple that helped the Cubs build that 6-0 advantage, which was forgotten by many when his unfortunate error led to Atlanta’s winning runs.
Immediately, some fans of the team went back to a moment that happened almost 25 years ago to the day, when a similar situation occured with the Cubs chasing a Wild Card spot.
On September 23, 1998, with the Cubs leading by two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, outfielder Brant Brown dropped what would have been the third out on a fly ball by Geoff Jenkins.
But he dropped the ball, allowing the tying and winning runs to score to give the Brewers an 8-7. There were 45,338 fans at County Stadium that day, mostly to see Sammy Sosa’s home run record chase, as he hit No. 64 & No. 65 that afternoon.
Despite that moment, the Cubs were still able to win the Wild Card spot that year, even after losing 2-of-3 to the Astros to end the year. The Giants couldn’t finish them off, forcing a one-game playoff in Chicago on September 28, which the Cubs won to clinch their first playoff spot in nine years.