The Difference Between Winning And Losing...

... is sometimes as simple as a ball that bounces out of a very good fielder's glove.

If Derrek Lee makes the stop -- admittedly, not an easy play -- on Rafael Furcal's sharp grounder with two out and two on in the seventh, the Cubs are out of the inning leading 1-0.

But, he didn't. Teams that are going well, get these sort of breaks in their favor, and teams that aren't, don't.

This sounds simplistic and sounds like I'm looking for excuses, but I'm not. Lee didn't make the play, and two runs scored, and for some inexplicable reason, Dusty Baker left Mark Prior in to pitch to Marcus Giles after that; Giles singled and Furcal scored and that, as they say, was that.

The Cubs lost to the Braves 3-1, losing the series despite outscoring Atlanta 13-8 -- and yes, I know the ten runs scored yesterday skews those totals.

It was another day that the local tourism people love to tell visitors from everywhere around the globe about: a game-time temperature of 72, light breezes off the lake, and wispy cirrus clouds making for an interesting look to the late-summer sky. Among other reasons, you can tell it's late summer because around 4:00, the shadows of the light towers are now starting to edge toward the third-base foul line, letting us know that this slipping-away season is coming to an end.

What made the end pretty much final today was the sickening heap that Aramis Ramirez collapsed into after hitting into a double play to end the first inning. You rarely hear a capacity crowd that silent, and normally, the Cubs play music and have an advertisement of some kind announced between innings; but that was all silenced while Baker and the training staff assisted A-Ram off the field. The preliminary announcement was a strained left quad, which is the opposite side from the quad strain that's been bothering him all year.

If the Cubs were closer to the wild-card lead than they are, Ramirez might miss a day or two -- remember, tomorrow's an off-day -- and suck it up and play through it. But given the dire situation right now, sitting him down for a week probably isn't such a bad idea. I wouldn't bother DL'ing him, because rosters can be expanded in eight days, and maybe he'd be ready to play by then. Nomar Garciaparra was close to being DL'd today, but wasn't; Ronny Cedeno was flown to Chicago "just in case", and if the brass decides A-Ram is to go on the DL, Cedeno will likely be activated Friday. Nomar, for his part, was on deck to pinch-hit for Kerry Wood when Michael Barrett struck out to end the game.

Apart from Lee's near-spectacular play, the play that set the tone for the entire Braves' winning rally was Mark Prior's ill-considered choice to throw to second on a sac bunt attempt by Ryan Langerhans, after Jeff Francoeur had bunted his way on. As Mike & I often say:

When the other team gives you an out, TAKE IT!

Instead, Prior made a terrible throw into CF -- even a good throw probably wouldn't have nailed Francoeur -- and instead of one out and a man on second, there were runners on first and third with nobody out.

Can someone explain to me, then, why this sequence:


  • J. Francoeur reached on bunt single to third
  • R. Langerhans reached on fielder's choice, J. Francoeur to second, J. Francoeur to third on pitcher M. Prior's throwing error
  • B. McCann struck out swinging
  • A. LaRoche hit for J. Sosa
  • R. Langerhans to second on wild pitch
  • A. LaRoche struck out swinging
  • R. Furcal singled to second, R. Langerhans and J. Francoeur scored
  • R. Furcal stole second
  • M. Giles singled to left, R. Furcal scored
  • W. Ohman relieved M. Prior
  • C. Jones grounded out to shortstop

... didn't result in three unearned runs? Note that though it says that Langerhans reached on a "fielder's choice", he was clearly bunting for a sacrifice, and was credited with one in the box score. Thus, the two strikeouts should have ended the inning, and since all the runs scored after that, shouldn't they be unearned?

Doesn't matter, I suppose; runs are runs, and the Cubs couldn't do anything with the Braves' bullpen, nor starter Jorge Sosa. They managed one run on a Matt Lawton walk and Todd Walker double, but wasted two Derrek Lee doubles (one somewhat generously scored after an Andruw Jones dive just missed a spectacular catch), one leading off the sixth inning.

And let's not even talk about Corey Patterson's ridiculous day -- OK, let's. The three K's were typical Corey at-bats: going up there with no clue as to pitch sequence, speed, or location. The third strikeout was on a pitch about a foot out of the strike zone. Then, in an inning where Kyle Farnsworth (who got his first save in an Atlanta uniform) struck out the side, Corey walked on four pitches. I cannot figure him out, nor, can I imagine, can anyone else. Can you imagine being a major league scout watching the Cubs these days, perhaps trying to pick up some postseason help for your club? What would you write on your report about Patterson?

Mark Prior pitched well, but as I mentioned, way too long -- nine extra pitches after Furcal had given the Braves the lead, even though Will Ohman and Roberto Novoa were standing in the bullpen, ready to go.

Oh, well. Thinking about this further is just going to depress me. Jon, Jeff and Brian were all just as disgusted; Jon actually made a special effort to come today, winding up with his dad Howard's ticket (and threatening not to take it unless Howard gave him "a deal" on it, because he likely could have found one on the street for below face value today; there were a ton of empty seats despite the lovely weather) and calling me before the game to confirm what I wanted on my Jimmy John's sandwich. Didn't help. None of the superstitions helped.

So, we'll enjoy the waning summer weather, and I had Mark with me again this afternoon, and spending a sunny summer afternoon at a ballgame with your son -- now, what's wrong with that?

Sign seen: "NOMAR PLEASE SING" -- with the "n" and the "g" in "sing" crossed out and replaced with a "g" and "n", in proper order. Someone else had a "Save Ferris" sign; OK, maybe nineteen years ago when that movie was released that would have been clever, but -- geez, Matthew Broderick is 43 years old, a little old to be cutting high school to go to a Cubs game.

Till Friday. Tomorrow, I'll be posting a Five Questions with my SB Nation colleague Mike from Fish Stripes, the Marlins site.

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