Blake Lalli of the Chicago Cubs is out as he collides with Rod Barajas of the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 3-2. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
I've written the words in the headline to this post before, but Saturday night, you'll have to admit the Cubs really did find a new and interesting way to lose.
And what does it say about the way things are going that my first thought when the game entered the bottom of the ninth tied 2-2 was, "I know they're going to lose. But how?"
The Cubs, as they have so many times this year, found the "how". After a single, a pair of walks and two outs, Rafael Dolis was one strike away from sending the game into extra innings. Instead, he hit Matt Hague with the bases loaded, giving the Pirates a 3-2 win over the Cubs, the Cubs' 11th consecutive defeat.
It's almost as if this team is consciously trying to be the anti-2008 Cubs. Almost four years ago, on June 12, 2008, Reed Johnson got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th at Wrigley Field; the Cubs beat the Braves on that, 5-4. I cannot remember nor locate (there aren't any systematic records of this) the last time the Cubs lost a game on a walkoff HBP. If you recall -- and it almost seems too long ago to recall -- the 2008 regular season was the Cubs' best in more than 70 years.
This one could wind up as the worst in team history.
Paul Maholm, in his first start at PNC Park as a non-Pirate, struggled through five innings, issuing five walks but somehow, giving up just two runs. He left with the game tied 2-2, thanks to an Alfonso Soriano solo homer in the fourth and back-to-back extra-base hits by David DeJesus and Starlin Castro in the fifth.
(Incidentally, the last time any Cub hit a home run with anyone on base was May 19 against the White Sox, when Soriano and Joe Mather both hit meaningless two-run homers in the bottom of the ninth in a game the Cubs entered that inning trailing 7-0.)
Meanwhile, the Cubs were getting runners thrown out at the plate. Maholm got thrown out in the third, and Blake Lalli, who appeared to have zero chance of scoring, in the seventh. And why'd you do that, Dale Sveum and Pat Listach?
Sveum said Listach was "caught up in the moment" and tried to "push the envelope" because of the Cubs' inability to score runs.
Cubs pitchers issued eight walks on Saturday night, and this time it was the Pirates who couldn't take advantage. They left 13 runners on base (three of them, of course, in that bases-loaded, ninth-inning, winning rally), but eventually walks like that are going to come back and bite you, and for Dolis, they did.
With the eight walks, the Cubs "keep pace" with the Padres for the most walks by pitchers in the National League; that makes 180 for the Cubs, 187 for the Padres, and guess who comes to Wrigley Field on Monday? The likely end result of that matchup: both teams will walk tons of hitters, but neither team will be able to score any of the runners (the Padres have scored even fewer runs than the Cubs). Look for 2-1 games that last three and a half hours. Oh, joy.
Now, we are in rarefied air. Just six Cubs teams have lost more than 11 in a row:
12: 1970, 1981
13: 1944, 1982, 1985
Amazingly enough, the 1970 Cubs somehow managed to finish with a winning record (84-78) despite the 12-game losing streak, which came in June. That team was 4½ games ahead in the old NL East when the streak began, 4½ behind when it ended, and finished five games behind the Pirates in second place.
This Cubs team won't come anywhere close to doing that. They will, however, attempt to break the losing streak Sunday afternoon. The game preview will post at 11 a.m. CDT.