If the Cubs' attempted comeback in the 9th inning today -- they did manage to get the tying run on base with one out -- had been successful, I'd have thrown up my hands in amazement, and there's already been a sufficient amount of amazement in this so-far-wonderful season.
They didn't, and you know what? Some days the other guy is just better than you. When facing a pitcher as good as Tim Lincecum -- and he had one of his better days today, giving up six hits and striking out nine -- you have very little margin for error, either, as Jack Brickhouse used to say, errors of commission or errors of omission, and the Cubs made just enough mistakes to result in a a 4-2 loss to the Giants, which, oddly, didn't feel quite as bad as yesterday's win.
Strange, I know. Here's where the game turned: on Mark DeRosa's ill-advised attempt to scoop Lincecum's sinking liner with a runner on first and one out in a scoreless game in the top of the third inning. Most other runners would have circled the bases for an inside-the-park HR as the ball went all the way to the wall, but Lincecum was held up with an RBI triple. It could have been charged an error (of "commission"), but wasn't, since DeRo never touched the ball. After a walk, a stolen base and a popup, the second error -- this one of omission -- happened.
There's no way Ryan Dempster should have pitched to Ray Durham. It wasn't a favorable matchup, Durham had had a good series so far (4-for-9 with a walk and two runs scored before today); Lou should have ordered him intentionally walked. Yes, in the third inning, because that early in the game, down 1-0 to a pitcher as good as Lincecum, you've got to keep the damage to a minimum. With the bases loaded and the unbelievably slow Bengie Molina due up next, you've got a real good shot at a forceout to end the inning.
Instead, Durham ran the count full and singled in two runs. The Cubs got one back on Jim Edmonds' double following a DeRosa walk, but that was it till Dempster got into trouble in the seventh, allowing the fourth and final run.
That set up a possible rally in the last of the 8th -- two singles brought Aramis Ramirez to bat with one out, and today's giveaway was a blue T-shirt with A-Ram's name and number on the back. Perhaps you saw virtually everyone in the bleachers waving the shirts, a sea of Cubbie blue -- very cool sight. Unfortunately, this time A-Ram had no drama for us, hitting into a double play.
Chad Gaudin showed us today why Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella wanted him so badly -- he threw two solid scoreless innings, keeping the team in the game till the bottom of the ninth, when a walk to Edmonds and two singles, including one by Geovany Soto as a pinch-hitter (thank you, Lou, for giving him the day off from catching today!) generated the second run, and brought up Daryle Ward, who's been so good as a pinch-hitter this year. He took two very close pitches after 0-2, both called balls, and then watched strike three go right down the center of the plate. Ryan Theriot grounded out to end the game... but give this team credit for at least getting that tying run on base in the 9th against one of the league's better closers, Brian Wilson, who was throwing 98 MPH and who, with today's save, passed Kerry Wood to take over the league lead with 25.
Wood, for his part, won't pitch in the All-Star Game, resting his blistered finger (an excellent idea), and has been replaced by Carlos Marmol, giving the Cubs a record-tying eight All-Stars. Now, only four, maybe five (Kosuke Fukudome, Soto, Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano and Marmol) will play, since Wood isn't available, and neither is Alfonso Soriano, and with a 118-pitch outing today, neither will Dempster. It seems very likely -- since Lincecum threw 116 pitches today, and Brandon Webb also pitched today -- that Zambrano, who last pitched on Wednesday and who won't go until at least next Saturday or Sunday, could be the starter for the National League on Tuesday. The choice of Marmol is odd, with Lou wanting him to rest and his poor June and July, but wouldn't it be even odder if he got his act back on track throwing an inning in the All-Star Game?
The old saw "You can't win 'em all" is so true today -- the Cubs ran into a really good pitcher and he beat 'em. It happens. They finish the first half with a 37-12 home record and remain 4.5 games in first place. Really, could we ask for better than this, at this moment in time?
Today, BCB reader drewishdruid and his lovely bride joined us, with their sign (did any of you spot it? They were holding it up at every inning break), along with BCB reader nside and his family, up from Indiana. They got nice weather and nice company, even with no victory. We move on to the second half after all of us take a much-needed break, with high hopes for the rest of this season. It's been wonderful. Hang on for the rest of the ride -- the best is yet to come.
I'll open threads for the Home Run Derby tomorrow and, of course, the game on Tuesday night.