Doing The Little Things Right...

... or not, is often the reason you win or lose baseball games.

Last night's 8-4 Cub loss to the Pirates is a perfect example of this concept.

It wasn't the two HR given up one out apart by Jason Marquis to Freddy Sanchez and Xavier Nady (and Nady's was a blast, well over 400 feet nearly to straightaway CF); instead, it was his failure, two innings earlier, to retire Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm with the bases loaded and two out. Maholm was hitting .138 this year before last night, has a career average of .121, and has never had an extra-base hit in, now, over 100 career at-bats.

Guys like this shouldn't be getting two-run singles, which is what happened. That wasn't the difference in an 8-4 game, but it set a tone, despite the fact that the Cubs did match that two-spot in the following inning.

Little things: Angel Pagan was caught stealing third base in the second inning, with two runners on and two out. Rob Bowen was at bat; when he batted again in the third, he doubled -- his first Cub hit since June 21, his first game as a Cub. Now, it's not a sure thing by any means that he'd have had this hit had his second inning AB continued -- but we've seen too many baserunning errors like this.

Little things: Mike Fontenot's error in the sixth inning. A major league 2B has to make that play. That helped lead to an unearned run off Sean Gallagher.

Little things: after the Cubs managed to sneak back within shouting distance at 7-4, Michael Wuertz allowed back-to-back doubles to lead off the 8th, putting the game further out of reach at 8-4.

Meanwhile, the Cubs couldn't do much with Maholm:

"He's done pretty well against us," Chicago's Ryan Theriot said. "He can throw three different pitches for strike one and he didn't pitch in patterns at all. When he's locating all of his pitches, especially his breaking pitches, he keeps hitters off balance."
And that pretty much sums it up. Angel Pagan nearly hit a three-run homer in the 6th, which would have made the score 6-5 at the time; the ball went just foul, and Pagan grounded out to end the inning. Some days, you're just not destined to win, and with Milwaukee's win over Washington, the deficit returns to 5.5 games (4 behind in the wild-card race). I had said before this road trip I'd be satisfied with a 5-2 trip, and by winning today and tomorrow in Pittsburgh, the Cubs can still accomplish this.

Think of it this way: how'd you like to be a White Sox fan this morning, after your team was destroyed twice in one day, 20-14 and 12-0? Nope, me either.

There are two things that do bear watching: first, the Cubs haven't homered since Aramis Ramirez' walkoff a week ago yesterday -- that's seven games, in which they've gone 4-3. And, Ryan Dempster's return may be delayed several days past the All-Star break, and the Cubs might go with 11 pitchers till Billy Petrick can be recalled on July 15.

And finally, whoever came up with these uniforms:


(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

... ought to be replaced, or sent to work at McDonald's, immediately. Yes, these are worse than those Rockies road uniforms, or the Giants spring training jerseys where you can't read the numbers. Awful.

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