Starting pitcher Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs makes a fielding error on a ground ball hit by Martin Prado of the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
The only really good thing I can say about Thursday at Wrigley Field -- where the Braves beat the Cubs 8-3 -- is that the afternoon was one of those spectacular weather days we get maybe half a dozen times a year in Chicago. There was unlimited sunshine, not a cloud to be seen, temperatures in the upper 70s, low humidity and a nice gentle breeze wafting slowly in from Lake Michigan. Especially in a year when the baseball season in Chicago has consisted of days when it was either:
- freezing cold
- pouring rain
- having nasty thunderstorms blow through, or
- the temperature and humidity combination through the roof
... today was amazingly nice outside. So before I continue this recap, please take this short pause to appreciate a day we don't see very often here.
All right. Finished with that? Let's move on to the game.
The Cubs made four errors Thursday afternoon, led off by the one you see at the image at the top of this post, by Matt Garza. That was Garza's seventh error of the season -- that's two more than any other National League pitcher. Naturally, Garza let his fielding miscue get to him -- it was only three pitches later when Brian McCann smashed a three-run homer to right-center field.
This is at least the third time this year the Cubs have made four errors in a game (at least, a quick search of game logs came up with just two others). Here are the other two I found: May 17, a 7-5 loss to the Reds and August 14, a 6-5 win over the Braves.
Notice anything those games and today's have in common? That's right, Matt Garza was the starting pitcher in all three of them. I don't know if Garza's bad fielding is contagious or just sets a tone, but this has to, just has to, be worked on under new management. This is something new for Garza, too; the seven errors is more than his previous four seasons combined.
The other errors, by Starlin Castro, Reed Johnson and the usually sure-handed Darwin Barney, helped lead to four unearned Atlanta runs. The Cubs' 108 errors are the most in the major leagues. So are the 58 unearned runs they've allowed. By comparison, the Phillies, who have made the fewest errors in baseball -- just over half the Cubs' total, 56 -- have allowed just 23 unearned runs.
35 extra runs allowed by the Cubs that didn't have to be given up. How many wins would that equate to? (I'll let the more statistically minded here calculate that.) Whatever the case, it just can't continue this way. When even the most fundamentally sound player on the team is kicking balls around, something has got to change. Not that I'd expect Barney to make no errors all year -- that's his 10th, which isn't a large total for a middle infielder -- but this team just looks bad when they can't play the field properly. They had their chances to get back into the game and even tied it up in the second inning, 3-3, when Marlon Byrd homered and Tyler Colvin tripled. Colvin wound up scoring on an infield out.
But that was it. The Cubs managed just four hits the rest of the way, and the usual followed: three runners to scoring position, one of them with nobody out, and nothing crossing the plate. McCann hit another home run, this one to left, and the Cubs bullpen and Garza helped put the game out of reach. Drip, drip, drip. You know. No dripping from the sky today, just baseballs raining into the field from Atlanta bats.
So the Cubs head to Milwaukee this weekend, where the Brewers are busy running away with the NL Central. Maybe the Cubs can put the brakes on that, but the way they've played at Miller Park this year -- losing five of six and being outscored 34-18 -- I wouldn't count on it.