Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs runs after hitting a home run against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on August 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
I've been trying to resist writing
"All good things must end"
... but I'm failing. So: indeed, all good things must end, and one of those good things, the Cubs' seven-game winning streak, ended at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. The Reds came from behind in the eighth inning and beat the Cubs 8-7.
This game was winnable. And it turned on several odd and weird plays.
- Tony Campana was called out at first base after beating out a routine ground ball to shortstop. (Replays appeared to confirm he was safe.) This was umpire Doug Eddings' call; he's one of the umpires I called out recently, and it looked like an "anticipation" play, in other words, the hitter hit a routine grounder to short, so he must be out. Unfortunately for Eddings, Campana can beat those out. It might have resulted in more runs in the Cubs' third, when they took a 2-1 lead on a "double" bit by Marlon Byrd, which was actually a routine fly ball dropped by Drew Stubbs in center field.
- Randy Wells was getting out of the fourth inning, when he allowed a two-run homer to Todd Frazier, when he wild-pitched in a third run, allowing the Reds to take a 4-3 lead.
- Reds rookie outfielder Dave Sappelt, making his major league debut, made an outstanding diving catch on a Geovany Soto sinking liner in the left field corner. If that gets by Sappelt, even the slow Geo might have wound up on third base.
- A ball stuck in the ivy as Sappelt -- who had never been to Wrigley Field before -- alertly held up his arms on Byrd's drive in the seventh. Byrd, Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez had all circled the bases, but Byrd and A-Ram had to go back on the ground-rule double. Ramirez later scored on a wild pitch, making it 7-6 Cubs, but Byrd was stranded, and that run turned out to be critical.
- Maybe we can blame Paul McCartney for this one. Byrd slipped and fell, taking a divot out of the center-field turf, after calling Castro off a popup. That wound up being a leadoff double for Joey Votto off Sean Marshall, and the Reds cashed that into the decisive three-run rally in the eighth inning.
So it was an entertaining game, but another long one: three hours and sixteen minutes and 312 pitches thrown, five walks issued by Cubs pitchers, four by Reds pitchers and what seemed like endless 3-2 counts on batters that resulted in strikeouts. At one point, six straight batters (the entire bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth) struck out, all swinging.
And while I'm at it, let me post my obligatory Mike Quade Criticism Of The Day. After Marshall gave up that gift double, he struck out Jay Bruce. Jeff Samardzija was warmed up and ready in the Reds' bullpen, and the next three hitters -- Todd Frazier (who had already homered), Stubbs (who has a lifetime SLG of .582 in Wrigley Field) and Ryan Hanigan -- are all righthanded. Granted, Marshall can get righthanded hitters out, but in that situation, why leave him in? And especially, why leave him in after Frazier hits a rope down the line to tie the game? Marshall clearly didn't have it on Sunday and by the time Quade did eventually get him out of there, Hanigan had singled in the lead run. It would have been worse if Samardzija hadn't induced a 5-2-3 double play to end the inning.
And then the game was left to Aroldis Chapman, who throws really, really, really, really fast. Several of his pitches registered 101 or 102 on Wrigley's pitch speed meter and Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney and Castro (who earlier had hit his second home run in the last week) really had no chance. Campana, Ramirez and Carlos Pena went out meekly to Francisco Cordero and the winning streak was history.
It was fun while it lasted, right? Even in a lost season, it's nice to see your team play solid baseball for a week. Today, storms blew through the Chicago area before 11 a.m. and when they cleared out, it got hot and sticky -- so much so that plate umpire Paul Nauert (whose strike zone was all over the place) had to leave the game after the seventh inning, with Eddings taking over behind the plate. The crowd of 39,619 had a few thousand no-shows -- the bleachers were only about 75% full -- and people started heading out around the same time Nauert did, likely for the same reason.
So the Cubs can take some satisfaction in helping (most likely) put the Reds' playoff hopes to rest, as Cincinnati rests 9.5 games out of first place, as well as helping put the Pirates on their current skid (the Bucs lost their 10th in a row on Sunday).
And let's start a new winning streak on Monday.