Cubs Make Stirring Ninth-Inning Comeback... And Lose To Mets

Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs hits a ninth inning game tying RBI single against the New York Mets at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

This was going to be a puppies, butterflies and rainbows recap, because the Cubs were down to their final strike Friday night before Starlin Castro singled, putting runners on first and second; Darwin Barney drove in the tying run with a seeing-eye single and it looked like the Cubs had, at the very least, taken the game to extra innings.

Not so fast. For one of the few times this season, Sean Marshall didn't get the job done; a single and a sacrifice bunt put a runner on second base in the last of the ninth. After Marshall got Ruben Tejada, an intentional walk set up an at-bat for Justin Turner. Turner had been 2-for-4 already.

So that raises a question: do you play Marlon Byrd shallow to try to cut off the run at the plate, or deep to catch a fly ball? Turner had already doubled once.

Mike Quade and the Cubs chose "shallow", and Turner hit the ball over Byrd's head; it bounced into the seats for a double and the Mets beat the Cubs 5-4. You can't really argue the choice to play Byrd so shallow, although in retrospect it didn't look so good. What if Turner dinks a single into short center field while Byrd is playing deep?

The Cubs fashioned a 3-0 lead by the fourth inning, in part on another long, long home run by Carlos Pena. It was his 27th of the year, and he is the first Cubs lefthanded hitter to hit that many in a season since... Jacque Jones in 2006. Yes, that surprised me too. The last Cubs lefthanded hitter to hit more than 27 home runs in a season was Fred McGriff, who hit 30 in 2002; that 30 was somewhat tainted, as Bruce Kimm kept playing him until he hit the 30th homer (so he could get to the 30/100 plateau again) instead of Hee Seop Choi, then a September callup languishing on the bench. After McGriff hit his 30th on September 22, 2002 in Pittsburgh, he didn't play the rest of the season (six games) except for a single pinch-hitting appearance.

Anyway, I digress. Give me one more bit of digression. there are just two other lefthanded-hitting Cubs who have hit 30 or more home runs in a season since Rick Monday's 32 in 1976: Rick Wilkins (30 in 1993, one of the biggest fluke seasons ever) and Henry Rodriguez (31 in 1998). Pena has a shot at hitting 30, three short with 18 games left.

Casey Coleman, who threw fairly well for four innings, coughed up the lead in the fourth by allowing a three-run Mets rally to allow them to tie, and then gave it up in the fifth on Turner's first double of the game. Coleman didn't pitch that badly, although you couldn't really say he threw well, either; such is the fate of much of the 2011 Cubs pitching staff.

There isn't a whole lot more to say about this game that hasn't been said dozens of times this year. The Cubs took the lead. They blew it. They looked OK at times, but mostly bad. It was the 41st time the Cubs have lost a game this year in which they had the lead at any time. That's a staggeringly large number.

Tom Ricketts and other members of the Cubs front office, who are in New York this weekend, were shown multiple times on the TV broadcast -- very happily when the Cubs tied the game. They weren't shown at the end, when the Mets won. Probably just as well.

It's a quick turnaround to this afternoon's contest. The game preview will post at 11 a.m. CDT.

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