The Cubs saved me a lot of work today. (Like you care.)
I was all ready to spend some time this afternoon researching when was the last time the Cubs threw back-to-back complete games, and when was the last time a Wrigley Field regulation-length game lasted less than two hours. Both of those things seemed quite possible as this game entered the eighth inning just before 3 p.m.
And then Darwin Barney ran into Julio Borbon in right field, a play which should have recorded the third out of the eighth inning with no runs scoring... and instead, two mostly-reliable Cubs relievers wound up letting three runs cross the plate after that play, resulting in a 4-2 loss to the Padres which was just about the ugliest of a so-far-ugly season.
Barney should know better. Yes, the wind was taking that ball, which otherwise would have been a routine, inning-ending fly ball to right, away from Borbon. But it still seemed clear that Borbon would catch the ball, and in general, when an outfielder has a bead on a fly ball, the infielder, even one with as good a defensive reputation as Barney, should let him complete the play. The ball dropped, generously scored a hit -- that made all the runs in the inning earned -- and Shawn Camp then came in and walked Chris Denorfia, and a pair of seeing-eye singles off James Russell completed the scoring.
Before that it looked like Travis Wood was going to throw the game of his life. On a day with the wind howling in from center field at nearly 20 miles per hour and temperatures about 25 degrees colder than Wednesday night, Wood retired the first 14 Padres before Kyle Blanks singled up the middle. One more single, by San Diego pitcher Eric Stults, was all Wood gave up through seven, and Stults was erased on a nice double play by Barney (credit where credit is due), so Wood had faced just one over the minimum through seven innings.
Stults had matched the zeroes through six, thanks mainly again to the Cubs' inability to hit with RISP. They had runners on second and third with one out in the second -- nothing; a runner on second with one out in the third -- more nothing; and a runner on second with two out in the fifth -- still more nothing.
Scott Hairston, who still doesn't seem to be able to hit much, came up after a Welington Castillo single in the seventh and sliced a line-drive homer to left-center right into the wind, giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Hairston, who was lifted after that inning for Borbon, is now 3-for-28 (.107) against lefthanders... all home runs. That's one of the most bizarre platoon splits I've seen, and the fact that all three hits are homers gives him a slugging percentage of .429 against LHP, despite the .107 BA.
The Cubs managed a couple of baserunners after the disastrous eighth inning, but managed simply to leave another runner in scoring position -- pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz, who doubled with two out in the ninth. That meant nine left on base and the team 0-for-7 in RISP situations.
I should, before I finish this up, give Anthony Rizzo props for a diving catch of a foul ball in which he completely disappeared from view between the tarp and the wall behind first base. I didn't even realize there was space back there, but Rizzo used all the room he needed.
I said I'd be disappointed if the Cubs didn't win three of four in this series, and I am disappointed. They are a better team than the Padres, but you can't simply give them an entire inning like the Cubs did in the eighth today. Any major-league team will take advantage of mistakes like that. I'm sorry for Travis Wood that his really nice outing -- which should have ended with eight shutout innings -- was ruined. It was all played in front of far less than half of the 32,865 announced, and yes, it was cold. And tomorrow, it's going to be cold and wet on a day when the Cubs are planning the first of four baseball-card set giveaways. So I'm guessing they'll do whatever they can to get tomorrow's game in, even though the Reds will return for two more series, one in June, one in July, when (presumably) it will be warmer.
The quote in the headline is Mike's, stated, truthfully, after the awful eighth inning. I can't argue with it. All I can say is that I hope the team starts playing better, because if they don't, this is going to be another very... long... summer. It was nice, anyway, to share part of this game with BCBer Shanghai Badger, who brought his dad to the game. Badger's dad, who is nearly 80 and was sitting in the bleachers for the first time in 50 years, finally gave up after the eighth inning and headed for a warmer place. Can't say I blame him.
And I wound up not saving myself the work I mentioned at the beginning of this post, because I went and looked it up anyway. The last time the Cubs had consecutive complete games was August 23, 2002 and August 24, 2002, when Kerry Wood and Matt Clement threw back-to-back CG against the Diamondbacks, Wood's in a defeat. And the last time a regulation-length game at Wrigley Field was completed in less than two hours was June 21, 2002, a one-hour, 49-minute win over the Cardinals.
File those away for future reference. Hope to be able to bring them out sometime in the future, on a happier occasion.