Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs is greeted by Anthony Rizzo and David DeJesus after hitting a three-run homer against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Before I bury Carlos Marmol for Sunday's performance, let me praise him.
Since June 12, before Sunday, he had made 28 appearances covering 26⅓ innings. In those innings he had faced 112 batters, given up 20 hits and 15 walks (1.329 WHIP), struck out 36, and posted an ERA of 2.05 with 15 saves and no blown saves.
That's very good. Sunday, Marmol was bad. He issued a pair of walks, threw to first base nine times to try to pick off pinch-runner Gregor Blanco (who wound up stealing second anyway), and gave up two run-scoring singles, resulting in a 7-5 Giants win over the Cubs, the fourth straight game that lasted more than three hours.
That was after Travis Wood threw pretty well over 5⅔ innings -- missing a quality start by just one batter when he gave up a ground-ball double to Xavier Nady with two out in the sixth -- and Alfonso Soriano had given the Cubs a 5-3 lead with a three-run homer off Matt Cain in the fifth.
Soriano is having a very good year. The homer was his 25th; he became the 10th Cub in history to have four 25-homer seasons with the team. The other nine (number of 25-HR seasons):
Sammy Sosa (12)
Ernie Banks (10)
Billy Williams (10)
Ron Santo (8)
Aramis Ramirez (7)
Ryne Sandberg (6)
Hank Sauer (5)
Bill Nicholson (5)
Hack Wilson (4)
Props to Soriano for working hard to come back from serious knee injuries; he's also playing a very good left field this year. He's got an excellent chance for his first 100-RBI season since 2005; no Cub has driven in 100 since Derrek Lee in 2009. If Matt Garza is traded, Soriano would likely be the only Cub making over $10 million in 2013. There's no obvious replacement. Might as well keep him at this point.
Oh, yes, more on the game. Well, the Cubs did score more runs off Matt Cain than I expected; in addition to Soriano, Darwin Barney had a pair of hits and scored twice (and also singled off Giants reliever Javier Lopez). David DeJesus also had two hits. Brett Jackson? Not so much. After a nice run the last few days, he struck out three times; credit to Cain, who's a very good pitcher.
Manuel Corpas wound up wild-pitching in the tying run in the sixth inning after he had given up an RBI triple to pinch-hitter Brandon Belt. After that, Shawn Camp, making his 69th appearance (he is on track to tie the team record, 84), threw a scoreless inning before Marmol's blowup. If Corpas doesn't do that and Marmol comes into the ninth in a save situation, maybe the result is different.
Or maybe it's not; this obviously isn't a good team and the Giants are, and thus maybe the result was pre-ordained. The Cubs head out on a 10-game road trip to Washington, Pittsburgh and Houston. Now think about that; the Nats have the best record in the league and are 39-25 at home. The Cubs are 17-48 on the road. The Pirates, despite having a rough go lately, are still 40-26 at home. I don't expect the Cubs to win again until they get to Houston.
The crowd today was surprisingly large -- 39,760 announced, probably 34,000 in the house, much bigger than Saturday. Since Monday's an afternoon game at Washington, my usual end-of-homestand attendance-watch post will go up on Tuesday instead.
Also, I'll be spending Monday afternoon at Kane County watching the Peoria Chiefs play their final game of 2012 against the Cougars. Very excited to see Jorge Soler play. I know some here have mentioned they're going to be there; maybe I'll see you there.
Finally, about 15 minutes before Joe Mather hit into a double play to end Sunday's game, Aroldis Chapman of the Reds retired Matt Dominguez of the Astros to nail down Cincinnati's 82nd win of 2012. With that win, the Cubs were mathematically eliminated from the NL Central race -- not that they hadn't been actually way out of contention for months.