The Cubs have a partial season-ticket plan called the "Double Play" plan; you can't get in on this plan any more, but those who have had it for years are grandfathered in. It comprises 18 games this year, all Wednesday and Friday afternoon dates (link opens .pdf).
So those who are in that plan were, or could have been, at Wrigley Field on the nicest weather day of the year. Apparently in honor of this plan (there are only six Wednesday afternoon home games this year), the Cubs hit into four double plays in four consecutive innings, helping lead to yet another one-run loss, 5-4 to the Cardinals on the nicest weather day of the season thus far. (Nice weather. That's about all we got. Oh, and another decent start from Carlos Villanueva, which went for naught.)
The Cubs gave the Cardinals a run in the first inning, then got it right back on a double by Anthony Rizzo that followed a Luis Valbuena single. Unfortunately, then Rizzo inexplicably took off for third -- he's usually a smart baserunner, but that wasn't smart. The Cubs gave the lead back in the fourth, but then a three-run rally gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead. One of the runs scored on an unusual 4-2-3 putout; Dioner Navarro grounded to second with the pulled-in infield, but Nate Schierholtz had gone on contact and the throw was late to the plate, but Navarro is so slow that even with the extra throw home, they got him at first base.
4-2 lead! Fifth inning! What could go wrong?
It seems I've written these words before, but you know what can go wrong. Plenty could, and did.
The Cubs had two runners on with nobody out in the fifth. Result: double play ball from Starlin Castro, runner to third, but they couldn't get him home.
The Cubs had runners on first and third with one out in the sixth. Result: inning-ending double-play ball from Navarro.
The Cubs had the leadoff man, Cody Ransom, on in the seventh. Julio Borbon was sent up to pinch-hit, and he squared to bunt. By this time the game was tied 4-4; I'd do that in the ninth, but why burn up a position player pinch-hitting to sacrifice? Borbon's bunt appeared to be good and he beat the throw, but was ruled out for interference. (See what I mean by "plenty"?) Ransom had to return to first. Final result of the inning: double play ball from David DeJesus.
And, the Cubs had runners on first and third with one out in the eighth. By this time the Cardinals had taken a 5-4 lead, so the runner on third represented the tying run. Fly ball works here, right? Nope. Result: Schierholtz hits into a double play.
The Cubs left just four men on base Wednesday afternoon as a result of all these double plays, but they certainly had enough baserunners to score many, many more runs.
Meanwhile, let's talk about the thing that every single manager does these days. Dale Sveum just announced this morning that there's no more "closer by committee", that Kevin Gregg is officially the ninth-inning guy. That's all well and good, but in a situation like today's -- why not use him in the highest-leverage situation, the eighth inning? Tie game, you want to at least keep the game tied, and Michael Bowden is the guy you turn to?
I know, I know. Roles, etc. But this is using relievers by the stat rather than the situation. Bowden's been good and bad this year, and today was bad; a single, wild pitch and single gave the Cardinals the eventual winning run.
The Cubs are now 6-8 in one-run games and that's extremely frustrating. Here's another game that could have been winnable, and it goes in the "L" column. The Cubs have played 14 one-run games and that's a pace for 67; the major-league record is 75, held by the 1971 Astros, and the team record is 66, set in 1974, by a Cubs team that lost 96 games (they were 30-36 in those one-run games that year).
The Cubs will head to Washington for a short three-game road trip over the weekend that starts Friday; Kyuji Fujikawa had a nice two-inning rehab appearance today for Double-A Tennessee, and he's expected to be activated for the series against the Nationals. I wouldn't be surprised if Bowden winds up optioned to Iowa, though Rafael Dolis could, too, or the Cubs could finally part ways with Shawn Camp.
The Cubs have parted ways with Ian Stewart, at least in one sense:
Ian Stewart cleared waivers, assigned outright to Iowa. He's now off #Cubs 40 man roster— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 8, 2013
Whether this has anything to do with Stewart's taking the 72-hour reporting period when he was already with the Iowa club or not, I do not know. But it does seem to make it more likely that Stewart's done as a major-league Cub. It also opens a 40-man roster spot -- does that mean some sort of acquisition is in the works?
We'll watch for that tomorrow on the off day, and also early Friday; with more than 48 hours till the Cubs' next game, there will be plenty of things to talk about here for the next two days. Friday, Jeff Samardzija takes the mound against Ross Detwiler.