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The Cubs are playing interminably long games. That would be OK, if they could win. But they aren't.
This has to be one of the longest seasons in Cubs history. Obviously, every major-league baseball season is the same length: 162 games. But this one, with all the losing, all the bad baseball, all the random players passing through that we'll likely never see again after 2012, seems longer than most.
Over the last seven days, we have been "treated" to:
- A nine-inning game that lasted over four hours
- A game that started at 10:42 p.m. and ended at 1:28 a.m.
- And, three games that went into extra innings, the shortest of which lasted three hours and 42 minutes.
Saturday's game was the third extra-inning game on that list, the "short" one, a 10-inning, 5-4 loss to the Cardinals that was two outs from another unexpected Cubs win when Carlos Marmol gave up a game-tying home run to Carlos Beltran. Now, we can criticize Marmol for many things, but giving up home runs isn't usually one of them. In 51⅓ innings before Saturday, Marmol had allowed just three home runs and none since July 6. That's 26 consecutive homerless appearances comprising 25⅔ innings, a 1.246 WHIP and 1.40 ERA.
And besides, Carlos Beltran is a pretty good hitter. Give the guy credit; he hit a key home run when his team needed it most.
Before Beltran's blast, the Cubs had actually done a nice job of coming back from a 3-0 deficit; Travis Wood had control issues in the second inning and walked in a run. That was after Josh Vitters dropped a foul popup that would have been the second out of the second inning; it seemed to rattle Wood, who gave up an infield single and then issued the bases-loaded pass. The Cardinals tacked on two more against him in the third.
Wood's own hit led to the first Cubs run, and then he was lifted after throwing 99 pitches in five innings. (Are you sensing a trend here? Way too many pitches thrown by Cubs starters.)
Then the Cubs took the lead with a three-run sixth, highlighted by a David DeJesus home run that nearly left the right-field bleachers altogether. Alfonso Soriano lost an RBI when Matt Holliday lost Soriano's ball in the left-field ivy -- whether it was really "lost" or just a good fake-out by Holliday, I couldn't tell. The runner, Anthony Rizzo, eventually scored on a sac fly by Welington Castillo and then Dave Sappelt drove in Soriano with the lead run.
Which is where it stayed through relief appearances by Manuel Corpas, Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp and James Russell, who combined for three innings, no runs, and just two hits allowed. The Cubs had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, when two-out singles by Vitters and pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena put the winning run on second and DeJesus, Friday's hero, at bat again. But he lofted an easy fly to left to end the rally.
Jaye Chapman started off the 10th inning the way he's pitched most of the time since his recall, with two easy outs. But then he also had command issues, and walked two straight hitters, which brought up Jon Jay, who doubled in the eventual winning run. Jason Motte threw the bottom of the 10th, firing almost nothing but 98+ mile-per-hour fastballs; no Cubs hitter could come close to it and the game ended with the Cubs' 93rd defeat.
For the first time this homestand, Wrigley Field was nearly full. Well, at least according to the announced attendance it was -- 40,298 bought tickets to the game. Maybe 31,000 or so showed up, at least half dressed in Cardinals red (including a strange bunch of men dressed in all-red suits, with red ties, railing about the Cardinals' cheapness and purported lack of a bullpen). If you watched or listened to the game, you no doubt heard the huge cheers for Beltran's home run and the final K of Bryan LaHair. The Cardinals maintained at least a two-game lead in the race for the second wild card, pending the outcome of the Dodgers/Reds game late Saturday. The St. Louis win also staved off the Reds clinching the Central division, which Cincinnati would have done with a Cubs victory.
It was also a weird weather day; the day started cloudy and cool, with thick dark clouds over Lake Michigan just east of Wrigley, where strong storms had popped up. The game-time temperature was just 49 degrees, almost 30 degrees lower than just two days earlier. The sun eventually emerged and the wind died down, making it a nice early-fall day, yet another reminder that this season soon comes to an end. As bad as the baseball has been, we will miss it when it's not here.
In the meantime, for the Cubs, they missed win no. 60 on their first attempt. They still need four more wins to avoid a 100-loss season. Perhaps it'll happen Sunday. (And maybe, just maybe, they could pick up the pace a little?)