Rangers 4, Cubs 2: A Game Of Inches

Brian Kersey

Darwin Barney's sinking liner could have won the game for the Cubs. It didn't. You've heard this one before.

In the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1962 World Series, the Giants trailed 1-0 and had runners on second and third with two out when Willie McCovey hit a screaming line drive that the Yankees' Bobby Richardson snared to win the game, and series. That prompted Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, a huge Giants fan, to write this strip and, a month later, this one.

That's pretty much the story of the Cubs' 4-2 loss to the Rangers Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. With the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth, if Darwin Barney's sinking line drive falls in front of Rangers center fielder Craig Gentry, the Cubs tie the game. If Gentry's diving attempt for a catch fails, the ball probably bounces past him and the Cubs have a dramatic win.

But it didn't. Barney had an excellent at-bat, running the count to 2-2 and fouling off three Joe Nathan pitches before hitting the ball that might have won the game.

But it didn't. Such is the life of the Chicago Cubs.

The loss wasted yet another fine pitching outing from Travis Wood, who pitched into the eighth inning, allowing just five hits. Two of those were doubles (by Adrian Beltre and ex-Cub Jeff Baker) in the fourth inning, providing what at the time appeared to be the only run the Rangers would need. They extended the lead to 4-0 with a three-run burst off Wood and Shawn Camp. Camp gave up a single and a long home run by Beltre, and appeared to have put the game out of reach. Camp had a good spring, but has been awful since the regular season began. He's allowed 11 hits and two walks in 4⅔ innings for a frightening 2.786 WHIP; he's also now allowed home runs in his last two appearances and balked in a run. Small sample size and all, but if he keeps this up, Camp could join the DFA parade that began Tuesday. It doesn't appear that Theo & Jed have much patience for non-producing players, after Brent Lillibridge and Hisanori Takahashi were put on the DFA list before Tuesday's game.

Kameron Loe, one of the relievers added to the roster, threw a scoreless ninth inning, even though he gave up a pair of hits. The second hit, an infield single, resulted in the third out of the inning when Gentry tried to score, but was thrown out by Anthony Rizzo on a nice throw to the plate.

Before the ninth inning, the Cubs' offense looked completely impotent against starter Derek Holland and reliever Tanner Scheppers. The Cubs got just one runner past first base through eight innings (a double by Alfonso Soriano; he went to third on a wild pitch) and they had just two other singles. Granted that Holland is a pretty good pitcher off to a good start this year, and that it was a cold night not conducive to hitting, but the Cubs' offense is going to have to start supporting what has, up to now, been reasonably good starting pitching (that was Wood's third quality start; of 77 pitchers who have started a game in the National League this year, just seven others have three QS so far). Maybe Dale Sveum needs to re-think the "all-righties-and-Rizzo" lineup vs. LHP, because none of those guys are actually hitting agalnst LHP. Cubs RHB are 20-for-103 -- .194 -- against LHP with three walks and 27 strikeouts and an OPS of .513 so far this year. That's... not good.

There was at least one good thing about Tuesday night's game. It went (relatively) quickly; it was the first Cubs home game of 2013 that was completed in less than three hours (2:47), and just the sixth of the 13 games to date that was faster than the three-hour benchmark.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts stopped by our section in the bleachers in the late innings after having hosted some of the Jackie Robinson Night guests in the bleacher suite. In a jovial mood, he posed for photos, signed autographs and patiently answered questions from a couple dozen people before chatting with our group for an inning or so. As has been written in many places, including this Sun-Times article summarizing the Cubs' proposal, what I took away from the conversation is that the proposal is, as the article states, a "framework." It reads more like a wish list than any final agreement; Ricketts says he hopes the Cubs can begin construction this offseason, depending on how quickly things move on all of this. All of the various people affected -- the city, the neighborhood, the rooftops -- will have input into the final plan.

Ricketts did tell a funny story about a long harangue he got from a fan about paying a "ticket tax"; the fan said he didn't want any "ticket tax" and at first, Ricketts couldn't figure out what the fan was talking about, until he realized the fan was talking about PSLs. He reiterated to us the team's position: they're not going to have PSLs.

In the meantime, the Cubs could use some runs. Maybe they'll get some Wednesday night, at least before a last-gasp ninth inning. That is, if the weather cooperates, and this forecast doesn't look promising.

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