I could start this recap of Tuesday night's the Cubs' 4-2, 13-inning loss to the Reds in any number of places. I've chosen this one.
Bryan LaHair smashed a monster home run into the night with two out in the ninth inning, tying the game 2-2. The ball was hit into the teeth of a very strong wind blowing in that had knocked several other fly balls down. Give the man credit -- he can hit.
In the end, all that did was provide about an extra 90 minutes of baseball, as the Cubs wound up losing by the same two runs they trailed by when LaHair hit his blast, his first home run as a Cub.
Have I changed my mind about him? Way too early to say that. The man has played in three games for the Cubs and is 4-for-9. That's pretty good, but it's way too small a sample size played in meaningless September games. I will admit, however, to now becoming a little more interested in seeing more of him.
There's an awful lot to say about this game beyond LaHair's home run. First, let's give credit to Mike Leake. LaHair's home run was on Leake's 89th pitch of the game. There have been Cubs pitchers who threw that many this year in four innings. Starlin Castro hit Leake's 86th pitch -- on a two-strike count -- for a single, only the Cubs' second hit of the game. If he had retired Castro on that pitch, it would have been only the 50th complete game thrown of 86 or fewer pitches since 1990 -- that's an average of about 2.5 such games per year, or about one-tenth of 1% of all games.
Leake was absolutely outstanding. Until LaHair's home run, only seven balls had left the infield, including a line-drive single by Alfonso Soriano in the second inning, the only hit before Castro's. The only other Cubs baserunners were Darwin Barney, who reached on catcher's interference in the seventh, and Soriano, who was hit by a pitch in the eighth. Soriano didn't spend too long on base, as Marlon Byrd hit into a double play each time.
After LaHair's home run, Aramis Ramirez just missed a Leake changeup, hitting a fly ball to center field to end the ninth; he almost got all of it for what would have been a walkoff home run. Instead, the game headed to extras. And that's when things got wacky.
Not knowing, of course, the game would go into extra innings, Mike Quade burned through six bench players through nine. That included two subs, Jeff Baker and Koyie Hill, who had to go into the game after three ninth-inning pinch hitters were used. None of those three PH stayed in the game. That left Tony Campana and Lou Montanez as the only position players left on the bench in extra innings.
And that's after three callups were made on Tuesday.
It shouldn't have mattered, because the Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the 10th inning, on a Soriano single, a walk to Byrd (just the 19th unintentional walk drawn by Byrd this year), and a Tyler Colvin single that was too shallow to score even the speedy Campana, who ran for Soriano. There were a lot of possible ways to score the winning run; instead Baker hit into a 5-2-3 double play and the game pressed on, with more and more people leaving. Of the 35,297 announced (and even that appeared inflated), maybe 15,000 showed up Tuesday night. By the time Baker hit into that DP, maybe 5,000 remained.
Give credit to most of the Cubs bullpen. After Rodrigo Lopez left the game one out short of a quality start, Cubs relievers from the sixth through 12th innings gave the team 5.1 no-hit innings, issuing two walks and striking out eight. (I'll get to the guy who broke this nice string later.)
In the bottom of the 12th, Tony Campana beat out a ground ball to deep first base. Only that isn't reflected in the boxscore, because first base umpire Tim Welke called him out. Replays indicated that Campana was safe -- and it wasn't close. There are two things I want to say about this; first, and most obviously, here is another play crying out for replay review. But second, it seems to me that Campana was called out because major league umpires simply cannot believe that a player can beat out a routine ground ball to first base. Yes, umpires: Campana is that fast. He's beaten out routine ground balls to shortstop and second base this year; a ground ball to the edge of the infield dirt at first base can be beaten out, too, by Campana, who may be the fastest man in baseball.
But replay on things like this is a no-brainer. Please, Bud. Before this kind of play costs a team a playoff game or series. (And one of these days, it will.)
The game pressed on past 10:30 p.m., and by then, maybe 1,000 of us remained. John Grabow, whose tenure in blue pinstripes has (hopefully) no more than 20 games to go, threw a credible 12th inning. That should have been the clue to Quade to get him out of there and not press his luck. John Gaub, ready to make his MLB debut, was available. Why not go to him? Sure, by then the Cubs were out of position players and Gaub would have had to bat no later than a 14th inning, but so what?
Miguel Cairo. Every time I see that guy play, I shake my head at the mistake the Cubs front office made ten years ago when they let Cairo go on a waiver claim to the Cardinals. Since then he has been a useful spare part for six different teams and has played in five postseasons.
Oh, well. It lasted three hours and 54 minutes and provided some laughs and some good baseball. What more can you ask, really, in a lost season like this one?
And one more thing. The loss accomplished the final mathematical elimination of the Cubs from any postseason consideration, as they were eliminated from the wild-card race. (Yes, I know the Cubs were effectively out of it months ago.) They'll finish up the series with the Reds Wednesday night ... one hopes, in a little less time than this one.