This afternoon was not Mike Fontenot's finest hour as a major leaguer. In fact, it was likely his worst -- he left seven men on base, coming up three times with runners on (once with the bases loaded, twice with two on) and making outs all three times. If he can get even two of those runners in, the Cubs would have been in the game at least till the seventh inning, when Ken Griffey, Jr. smacked his 596th career HR into the teeth of Chicago's typical April lake breeze off Jon Lieber, a three-run shot that turned a somewhat-manageable 5-2 game into a 8-2 rout, and the Reds beat the Cubs 9-2 this afternoon. To make matters worse, the HR came after Ryan Theriot bobbled a routine ground ball and then Fontenot failed to cover first base when Lieber got Ryan Freel to hit a comebacker. Lieber did his job -- got the first two hitters he faced to hit ground balls. The infielders failed today.
Still, you'd take two out of three every series, wouldn't you? Yes, it's nice to think "sweep" when you've won the first two, but it's hard to sweep a team, no matter how good or bad they are, or are perceived to be. The Reds have some pretty good hitters and they showed us that today -- particularly Joey Votto. Votto got two fat pitches from Ted Lilly, and hit the first one for a bases-clearing double and the second for a two-run homer. Other than that, I thought Lilly threw a pretty decent game, his best start all year (it won't show up well in the box score, of course, five earned runs in six innings); at last he had the command that seemed to elude him all spring and in his first two outings in the regular season.
The Cubs had plenty of opportunity against the fireballing Edinson Volquez, who is that typical "throws-hard-but-you're-not-quite-sure-where-it's-going" young pitcher. He walked four and gave up four hits, but thanks mostly to Fontenot, he gave up only one run; the Cubs stranded seven through four innings. Further complicating things was the fact that with two on and nobody out in the fourth, the Cubs down 3-1, Henry Blanco decided to bunt. With Lilly, a terrible hitter (.111 career), up next. If you're going to do that, lay down a suicide squeeze, which would score a run (if properly done) and leave a runner on second. According to Lou in his postgame news conference, which I heard on the radio going home, the bunt sign wasn't on.
Which raises this question: if the bunt sign wasn't on, why didn't someone talk to Blanco after the first missed bunt attempt, to tell him to knock it off? Blanco bunted foul on strike three, after which Lilly sacrificed the runners to second and third, which is where we pick up the Fontenot story again.
All this on a "bonus sunshine" day -- the forecast was for clouds all day, but the temperature at game time was 59 degrees (felt warmer, and probably was -- that reported temperature is usually the 1 pm lakefront reading, and the lake cooling hadn't gotten to the ballpark by then), with bright sunshine. About 2:00, the wind shifted from light southeast to strong northeast, and both HR -- by Votto and Griffey -- would have been far up into the bleachers on an ordinary day. Quite a number of fly balls hit in the later innings -- one caught by Reed Johnson in the 9th in particular -- got pushed in a long distance by the wind.
Good signs today: a good outing from Michael Wuertz, who has needed one. He dispatched the Reds 1-2-3 in the 9th inning, not that it mattered by that time. Reed Johnson had four hits today and played a good CF. I would imagine he'll be playing CF vs. the two Pirates LHP on Saturday and Sunday.
There isn't too much more to say about this. Some days you're just going to look bad and lose. Onward to tomorrow.