This team has absolutely no margin for error.
The Cubs scored a run in the first inning, a manufactured run on a double, an infield out and a sacrifice fly. They were getting good pitching from Ryan Dempster. It looked like they might be on their way to a 1-0 victory.
And then Ryan Dempster makes one bad pitch -- allowing a home run to George Kottaras one out after Mat Gamel led off the seventh inning with a double -- and you knew, just knew, that this Cubs team couldn't come back. That was true even though they had the first two men on base in the seventh, two more men on base in the eighth (after two were out) and a Steve Clevenger double with two out in the ninth.
For those keeping track at home, that's five men left on base in the last three innings, three of them in scoring position, and eight of the last nine outs by strikeout. Once they blow a lead, that seems to take all the stuffing out of them and there's zero chance of them coming back; they lost to the Brewers 2-1, their second one-run loss after having a late-inning lead this year.
Besides Dempster's second straight outstanding start, there were other good things about this game:
- Both Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood had good-to-excellent relief appearances, keeping the game close.
- I've criticized Bryan LaHair's defense, so let me give him credit for turning in a slick unassisted double play in the sixth inning after snaring a low line drive off the bat of Nyjer Morgan.
- Dale Sveum's aggressive baserunning philosophy was evident today, as Darwin Barney took second base after a fly ball to medium right field by Starlin Castro, putting him in scoring position with two out. Unfortunately, Alfonso Soriano struck out to end the inning.
- Clevenger had that pinch-double. I'd like to see him get more playing time. The man can hit.
Hmmm. Somehow, I thought that list was going to be longer when I started it, but that's about all I've got. The Cubs didn't play a bad game, they just didn't play a good enough game, which has essentially been the story every single day of this young season.
The last time the Cubs started as poorly as they have this year (1-5) was in the dreadful 1997 season, when the team started with a 14-game losing streak, still the National League record for such things to begin a season. With one win, the Cubs won't threaten that, but... man, this just doesn't look very good. I knew, and you all knew, this was going to be a transition year of sorts with new on- and off-field management. But after six games, there doesn't appear to be much hope for anything at all.
The last time the Cubs were swept in a four-game series at home was August 16-19, 2010, a sweep by the San Diego Padres; the Cubs were outscored 20-9 in that series. Three days later, Lou Piniella announced his immediate retirement as manager.
That won't happen this week. At least I don't think so. But I'd like to be given some reason to hope.
So would a lot of the people who haven't been showing up. 34,044 was the announced attendance today; maybe half of those were in the house on a chilly day, and many of those either left early or attempted to squeeze themselves down the right-field line in one of the few areas in the main stands where the sun was shining.
The sun will come up tomorrow; it's supposed to shine over Wrigley again, with temperatures about 10 degrees warmer than today. It'd be nice to have some better baseball to go with the weather.