Any Team Can Avoid A Century: Cubs Stave Off 100th Loss, Beat D'backs

Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

In their final road game of the 2012 season, the Cubs, at last, won a game in a NL West ballpark by defeating the Diamondbacks at Chase Field; in so doing, they remained one short of 100 defeats.

Surprise!

The Cubs had some sketchy fielding and bad baserunning in the early innings, but got three hits from Anthony Rizzo and a two-run pinch-single by Bryan LaHair (after which he, too, got himself tagged out overrunning first base) and defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-2. The scoring was capped by David DeJesus' ninth home run of the season into a mostly-empty right-field section in the ninth inning.

This is newsworthy because the Cubs had lost all 18 previous games played in NL West parks this season and 19 straight going back to the final game of 2011 at San Diego, and hadn't won a game at Chase Field since April 30, 2011.

And, for at least one more day, it staved off the 100th loss that the players (and, surely, Theo & Jed & Co.) want to avoid. Further, it snapped a seven-game losing streak, the third one that went at least that long this year. Before today, the Cubs had lost 11 of their last 12 and had not had a lead as large as today's final score (five runs) since defeating the Pirates 12-2 in Pittsburgh 23 days ago, September 7.

Chris Rusin's boxscore line: five innings, one earned run, four strikeouts -- doesn't look too bad, but that doesn't take into account his brain fart in the first inning. A slow roller down the third-base line, that Luis Valbuena couldn't handle, wasn't backed up properly by Rusin, who grabbed the ball too late, after one run had already scored. Rusin threw the ball awkwardly to the plate, and Anthony Recker couldn't hang on to it. The error was charged to Recker, but Rusin should have backed up the play better and not thrown anywhere.

Turns out those were the only runs the D'backs scored; Michael Bowden, James Russell, Shawn Camp and Carlos Marmol finished up without incident. Rusin, at least, managed to finish with a season ERA under seven. (This is what we are reduced to: "celebrating" a pitcher whose season ERA is 6.37.)

Now, the Cubs head home for the final three games of the season against the suddenly-hot Astros, who avoided breaking the major-league record for most road losses in a season by winning two of three from the Brewers at Miller Park. It was just the third time this season that Houston had won a road series (two of three at the Cell from the White Sox in June, and inexplicably, two of three from the Reds in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago). Since September 15, the Astros are 7-7. In that same time span, the Cubs are 3-11. So don't take wins over Houston for granted, nor avoiding a 100-loss season; the Cubs will have to win all three games over Houston to do that.

So there's going to be something at stake, professional pride if nothing else, at Wrigley Field beginning Monday, in games that are likely going to be played in front of very small gatherings (especially Monday, with the Bears vs. Cowboys on Monday Night Football), despite forecasts of pleasant weather. I'd expect no more than about 10,000 in the house for any of the three games, perhaps a bit less Monday, a bit more Wednesday with a nice, sunny afternoon in store.

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