Cubs Lose, Earlier, 3-1 To Reds

David Banks - Getty Images

No rain hit Wrigley Field Tuesday night; the game started on time and ran just about the same length as Monday's late-night show.

The game wasn't much different, either; Darwin Barney got the first hit for the Cubs, as he did Monday night, and a Cubs starting pitcher threw pretty well except for one tainted inning.

The result, a 3-1 loss to the Reds, was essentially the same, too, except the Cubs did manage to push across that single run. I am struck by a quote from manager Dale Sveum in the Tribune recap of the game:

"I think both teams were sleepwalking out there," Sveum said of the rain-delayed Pirates game. "With a full crowd out there tonight, I think it will be a different story."

Where has he been this homestand? "Full crowd?" Sure, there were more people in Wrigley Field Tuesday night than Monday, but "full"... um, no. Maybe 16,000, half the announced total of 32,547, showed up on a chilly night that felt more like November than September.

The "one tainted inning", the Reds' sixth that broke a scoreless tie, started with Justin Germano walking the bases loaded. He'd been pretty good for the first five; maybe Sveum should have been satisfied with that and taken him out; after all, the Cubs have an 11-man bullpen. Manuel Corpas was summoned with the bases loaded and nobody out.

That's a difficult task for any relief pitcher. You're probably doomed either way; if you leave the starter who's having control issues in, he either walks in runs or grooves one. But a reliever probably isn't going to help a situation like this end well, either, not unless he's one of the top relievers in the game, and since when do managers put guys like that in games in the sixth inning?

This has been the subject of debate among baseball people and writers for a while now. Why not put your best guy in the game in a high-leverage situation like that? The game's on the line right there, not (for example) with a three-run lead and nobody on base in the ninth.

Well. Most modern managers are afraid to go "against the book" like that, and Sveum is no exception. Thus, Corpas.

Corpas got Scott Rolen to hit a fly ball to Brett Jackson, who made an outstanding throw to the plate to hold the runners. Kudos to Jackson. One out! However, the next hitter, Ryan Hanigan, hit a ball in the gap between Jackson and David DeJesus, clearing the bases. Given the difficulty this team has had in scoring runs, I figured that was probably game over, and essentially, it was.

The Cubs finally broke through in the eighth off a tiring Homer Bailey; Barney singled and pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair doubled him in. That was LaHair's second RBI since the All-Star break, during which time he's hit .196/.275/.293 with one home run.

Sean Marshall came in and hit pinch-hitter Dave Sappelt, putting the tying run on base with one out. You know what happens next (rally ends), and Jonathan Broxton finished things off for his third save as a Red (26th overall).

Thus, the second Cubs 90-loss season since 2006 is in the books; that dropped the team back to 32 games under .500. The Reds are a very good team, as you likely already know; 10-4 now against the Cubs this season and after a rough start to September, have won four of their last six games. The good news for Cubs fans is that the Cardinals won Tuesday night. Yes, I said "good news", because if the Cardinals can win one of the next two games, the Reds will not be able to clinch the NL Central at Wrigley Field. I don't think we need to see that.

Onward we go; 14 games remain, and even though this season's been so bad, I suspect we'll miss it when it's gone. Even bad baseball is better than no baseball.

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