Here's how one play can set the tone for an entire game.
In the first inning last night, the first three batters facing Ryan Dempster had grounded to third, walked and singled. This isn't terrible; Dempster thus had a runners on first and third situation with one out.
He got Garrett Jones to hit a comebacker. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, he turns that into a 1-6-3 double play and gets out of the inning. But last night, Dempster bobbled the ball and could only get one out, at first base. A run scored. So now he's got two out, a run in and a runner on second; still not a terrible inning if you can get out of it.
"You've got to put that behind you right away and go out there and make pitches," Dempster said. "I didn't do a very good job making quality pitches tonight. I was prepared and I was ready but I didn't execute. When you don't execute, you get bad results."
The bad results were a double, a hit batter and another double, and the Cubs were in a 4-0 hole before they even batted. Seems likely that Dempster was upset with himself for not making the double play happen and may not have been focused on the hitters and, as he said, didn't execute his pitches. It was Dempster's second-shortest outing as a Cubs starter; the only shorter one was June 27, 2008 at the Cell, when he was knocked out after 2.1 innings.
The Cubs lost to the Pirates by the football-like score of 14-7; if you are into esoteric baseball trivia like this, it is the first time in Cubs history (going back to 1920) that they have scored 14 runs in a game and then given up 14 runs in the next game.
They did make it interesting with Koyie Hill's first home run of the season in the fifth and a five-run eighth. It might have been more interesting if not for Starlin Castro's error in the seventh, which led to the last three Pirate runs, all unearned. If the Cubs come up in the ninth trailing 11-7 instead of 14-7 -- well, maybe they don't go out meekly 1-2-3.
For his part, Hill came up in the ninth having a chance to hit for the cycle, having singled, homered and doubled in his three previous at-bats. While that might have been the most unlikely cycle in Cubs (if not MLB) history, Hill has actually hit three triples in the last two years, including one earlier this year. Instead, he grounded to second.
The Pirates' Garrett Jones continued his ridiculous hitting against the Cubs with a two-run homer; in 56 plate appearances this year he is hitting .384/.429/.661 with five doubles and four HR. Against everyone else he's hitting .230/.290/.363.
And a couple of idiots went shrubbery-diving last night after Neil Walker's three-run homer landed in the CF juniper bushes. Kids, don't do this. (And in my view, the throw-the-HR-ball-back practice ought to be consigned to history, too.)
Once again, attendance was part of the story last night. An announced crowd of 31,369 appeared to be no more than perhaps 18,000 or so in the house; only about 1,000 were in the bleachers. It's raining this morning and if they even manage to get the game in, there may be only half that number who actually show up. The game preview will post at 11:30 am CDT.