Pitching? Check. Fielding? Check. Hitting? Not So Much: Cubs 1, Reds 2

This recap of the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Reds will be almost as short as the game itself (which ran a snappy two hours and twenty-eight minutes).

Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and he appeared to have no-hitter stuff; he had walked only one up to that point, and Mark DeRosa had provided an outstanding defensive play, something you often see in no-hitters, snaring Ryan Hanigan's line drive in the 3rd inning that looked like it was headed up the middle for a hit.

The Cubs, meanwhile, had plenty of chances to score over the first four innings -- in those four innings alone they had three hits and four walks, but two double plays ended innings, and so the only run that scored was after an Aramis Ramirez single; he advanced on an infield out, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a DeRo single.

Still, going into the 6th 1-0 appeared that it might be enough, but Lilly allowed a long double to Hanigan that might, on a day that the wind wasn't blowing in, been a home run; instead it bounced off the CF ivy for a double, and when Lilly struck out Chris Dickerson two batters later, he threw a wild pitch on strike three, allowing Dickerson to reach and Hanigan to go to third, where he scored on a fielder's choice -- another fine play by DeRo. The ball was headed up the middle when DeRo snagged it, but couldn't turn the DP. Had Lilly not thrown that WP, that grounder would have ended the inning.

The Reds' second -- and decisive -- run scored when an Edwin Encarnacion popup dropped just out of reach of Ryan Theriot and Alfonso Soriano in short left. Sitting right behind Soriano, it appeared to me that Sori couldn't have caught up to that ball even if he had gotten a better jump on it (he didn't); it just landed in no-man's-land. Maybe you disagree, but that's how I saw it. Two outs later the Reds had the lead.

The Cubs had only one baserunner after Geovany Soto hit into a double play to end the fourth inning -- Soto drew a two-out walk in the eighth, but Mike Fontenot, batting for Lilly, was called out on strikes. Both Jim Edmonds and DeRo, the last two outs of the game, also took called third's -- that drives me nuts, especially in the ninth inning of a one-run game. All of those pitches appeared too close to take.

Frustrating, infuriating, maddening. But we can take several good things out of even a loss like that: Lilly threw perhaps his best game of the year and if he keeps pitching like that, good things will follow. Neal Cotts and Jeff Samardzija (the subject, along with Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol, of a feature article in this week's Sports Illustrated) finished up with two scoreless innings of relief, keeping the game close. Cotts threw ten pitches and Samardzija nine, so both should be available today. (Incidentally, I was amused when getting a glance at Olympic men's volleyball, USA vs. Serbia, yesterday and seeing that one of the Serbian player's names was Marko Samardzic, perhaps a distant relative of Jeff's.)

Note: the Cubs are in a bit of a power outage. The last Cub homer was Henry Blanco's in Saturday's loss at Florida, the only run in that game. Daryle Ward and Mark DeRosa homered in last Friday's win; the last homers by any of the major power hitters were by Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano in Thursday's second game at Atlanta. Actually, it's nice that the Cubs can win without home runs -- but it wouldn't hurt to have one, or more, every now and then.

Can't win 'em all. Win today and win the series, and as Lou has said, that's the goal for the rest of the season. The pregame thread will be up at 11:30 am CT.

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