Maybe it was the strain of the Cubs' packed schedule this week. Or maybe they were simply due for another dud.
Whatever the reason, the Cubs lost 9-3 to the Cardinals in Game 1 of Wednesday's double header, despite having planet of chances to right the ship.
The Cubs dropped to a 15-8 record, and the Cardinals, a division rival, improves to 6-6.
Here are takeaways from the game:
Stumbling out of the blocks
Alec Mills logged his worst start of the season, allowing six runs in less than four innings.
The right-hander gave up a grand slam in the first inning to Matt Carpenter, making it the highest-scoring inning he'd pitched all year. He faced eight batters in the first inning alone, walked two and hit one.
His pitch count skyrocketed, and when he left the game in the fourth inning, he had already labored to 86 pitches.
For the Cubs, getting runners in scoring position was not a problem. Driving them in was where they fell short, even as Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty battled control issues and left the game in the second inning.
The Cubs squandered bases loaded opportunities in consecutive innings.
In the second, they loaded the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch. Ian Happ, who hit a leadoff homer to the right-field scoreboard in the first inning, stepped up the plate with two outs. He struck out on three pitches.
The next inning, the Cubs put three runners on with the same recipe. This time, Jason Kipnis grounded out to second for the third out.
Catching a break
The scorebook will say that Cardinals infielder Brad Miller hit a line-drive single into center field and then was thrown out trying to advance to second.
The replay, on the other hand, suggested that Miller slid just out of Cubs shortstop Javier Báez's reach. Miller himself seemed to be arguing that he'd never been tagged as he headed back to the dugout.
But the Cardinals didn't challenge the call. Tyler O'Neill was up next for the Cardinals and hit a double to left field. Miller would have scored. Instead Mills retired the next two batters he faced and stranded O'Neill at second.
Crosstown rotation set
Thanks to an off day on Thursday, the Cubs can stay on their regular five-day rotation, even with Tyler Chatwood (mid-back strain) still on the 10-day injured list.
"Yu Darvish being free to be himself is the magic formula." – David Ross, reflecting on Darvish's dominance since the second half of last season
Right-hander Adbert Alzolay is scheduled to make his 2020 debut and third major league start in Game 2 of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Cardinals, the series finale.
Quick takes: Missed opportunities haunt Cubs in Game 1 loss to Cardinals originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago