Free passes sink Jordan Wicks’ start as Cubs lose 4-2 to Mariners to open series

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jordan Wicks (36) talks with catcher Yan Gomes (15) and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, left, during the second inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Friday, April 12, 2024, in Seattle.

Lindsey Wasson/AP Photos

SEATTLE – Cubs lefty Jordan Wicks is getting swing-and miss, especially on his changeup and slider. But he has yet to make it deep into a game this season.

“A lot of the stuff that we worked on coming into the season, and as far as the four-steam and the breaking balls and stuff like that –all that stuff is great,” Wicks said after the Cubs’ 4-2 loss to the Mariners on Friday. “But we can’t still forget who I am and forget what makes me really good. And I feel like a little bit of that we’ve gotten away from, and we’ve kind of seen the consequences.”

Free passes sunk Wicks’ third start of the season and lifted his pitch count. The Mariners scored all their runs against Wicks, who pitched four innings, tied a career high with four walks and hit a batter for the first time in his young major-league career. The Cubs dropped to a 1-3 record on this West Coast road trip.

“Essentially the game boiled down to a couple of chances where he was ahead in the count, and ended up in two walks and a hit by pitch,” manager Craig Counsell said after the game.

The first of those instances came in the second inning. Wicks had loaded the bases with no outs, but then he struck out Cal Raleigh and induced Dylan Moore to fly out.

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Luis Urías was up next, and Wicks got to a 1-2 count against him. Urías fouled off four straight pitches, batting to keep the at-bat alive. Then Wicks hit him with a slider, pushing the first run of the game across the plate.

Wicks got out of the inning without any more damage.

“He should take that in as a positive because he was able to eliminate a big inning,” veteran catcher Yan Gomes said. “But at the same time, we were getting behind a lot of guys, we were using a lot of pitches that we didn’t need to – and I mean nipping at the zone, not pitch selection.”

Look at how Moore’s walk in the fourth inning played out.

Wicks had already walked Mitch Garver to lead off the inning, that time falling behind in the count early. So, there was a runner on first with one out.

Wicks threw back-to-back fastballs at the top of the zone and got Moore to foul them off. Up 0-2, Wicks buried a changeup in the dirt – a fine attempt to get Moore to chase, but no luck. Then Wicks threw three more low changeups in a row to walk Moore.

Then again, facing J.P. Crawford with two outs, Wicks got to an 0-2 count. He threw a fastball up and out of the zone and a slider in the dirt to make it 2-2. He ventured back in the strike zone with a low fastball on the outer third, but Crawford fouled off that pitch. Then Wicks threw a slider and fastball outside to walk Crawford.

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“The walks are the ones that really drive me nuts,” Wicks said. “I feel like we’ve got way too good of a defense for me to let people on via walk. I feel like I’ve got to allow our team to work behind me as well. We’ve got at least four Gold Glovers behind me; I’ve got to let them do their job.”

The walks extended the inning and put runners on base for Julio Rodríguez and Ty France to drive in for a three-run inning.

“He’s got a lot of talent,” Gomes said. “He’s definitely got a pretty good arsenal that he can just attack the zone [with] even more. And sometimes when the strikeouts aren’t coming as easy, we can just go get an early out. But at the same time, he does have strikeout stuff.”

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