For once, the Cubs get good starting pitching and good relief pitching, and lose anyway, because they couldn't score off yet another rookie pitcher, and three other Met relievers.
There's not many other ways you can sum up today's frustrating 1-0 Cub loss to the Mets in 10 innings.
And they had their chances to push a run across, too -- even while getting only four hits and drawing four walks. They left RISP in the fourth, sixth and tenth innings, and the tenth-inning missed opportunity was the most maddening -- because Neifi was the batter with the bases loaded and ONE out, and actually ran the count to 3-1 before popping up.
In fact, the key plays in the entire game may have been these:
- Juan Pierre getting caught stealing -- by a mile -- after leading off the game with a walk. Had he stayed put, Aramis Ramirez would have singled him to third with one out, and then perhaps Michael Barrett would have given the Cubs the lead.
- Ronny Cedeno failing to catch an easily-playable popup in the seventh inning that was the first Mets hit of the game. This is what I call a Butterfly Effect play -- if Cedeno makes that play, the Mets go out 1-2-3 in that inning and the no-hitter's intact, and maybe Dusty Baker comes back with Bob Howry instead of Scott Eyre in the 8th and... well, you get the idea.
You know who Cedeno reminds me of? You probably don't even remember this guy, but I do. Roberto Pena was nearly as highly touted as Cedeno back in 1965; he was older then (28) than Cedeno is now, but the Cubs had high hopes he'd take over from Andre Rodgers, their SS of the three previous seasons. Rodgers wasn't a great player, but had a little power, drew a walk or three, and had good range (but made a ton of errors) at SS. Think Shawon Dunston with a little more plate discipline.
Anyway, in a "challenge trade" (these were popular in the day; many teams traded guys who played the same position as each other, to try to get someone who did something "different". The most famous of these was the Rocky Colavito-for-Harvey Kuenn deal -- HR champ for batting champ -- that pretty much destroyed the Cleveland Indians for a decade), the Cubs swapped Rodgers for Pena in December 1964. The Cubs were right to trade Rodgers -- he was at peak value (such as it was), and he wasn't much the rest of his career.
Pena was installed as the starting SS on Opening Day 1965. And he sucked. Couldn't hit (.218/.291/.294) and couldn't field (17 errors in 50 starts). The Cubs finally gave up in early June and brought up Don Kessinger, and eventually Pena wound up with the Phillies, Padres and Brewers, playing poorly for them, too.
Now, you'll say that Cedeno is five years younger than Pena was then, and you'd be right, and you'll also say that I cite age as the part of the reason Rich Hill won't make it, and you'd be right about that contention, too. Maybe Cedeno will figure it out, and he certainly should finish out this year as the starting SS, because this year's done anyway, and sixty more starts will give us a much better idea about his future.
Which, I suspect, will resemble Roberto Pena's.
Final note about the Mets series: I thought the Cubs, for the most part, played well, and had a pretty good shot at sweeping the best team in the NL, after getting swept by the worst team in the NL East. Maybe they raise their game when playing a good team. This would bode well for the Cardinal series, and the Cubs have played St. Louis well so far this year, winning six of nine.