Well, did she make you cry
Make you break down
Shatter your illusions of love
And is it over now
Do you know how to pick up the pieces and go home?
-- Fleetwood Mac, "Gold Dust Woman"
David Kaplan of WGN radio put it best, I think, in his postgame comments, as I heard them while driving home from the toughest Cub loss of this young season, 4-3 to the Brewers this afternoon, a game that seemed "hard fought and won", as that old saw goes.
Kaplan said that instead of slotting Felix Pie in the game for Reed Johnson, Lou Piniella should have put Pie in CF and moved Johnson to LF, replacing Alfonso Soriano... because Johnson probably would have caught Gabe Kapler's long drive to left that Soriano misread and misplayed.
And he's right. I know Soriano is maddening at times and today was one of his worst days as a Cub, making that bad play and going 0-for-4 at the plate, grounding out three times and popping up in the 7th after Mike Fontenot had singled.
It was shades of Opening Day. Kerry Wood, who's been quite good in the closing role this year, hit Craig Counsell with the first pitch he threw today, just as he hit Rickie Weeks with his first pitch of the 2008 season on March 31... and the result was the same, a disastrous three-run inning highlighted by Kapler's double that should have been an out. After Jason Kendall singled in the second run, the Cubs still had the lead at 3-2, but then Ryan Braun (who Dave calls the best right-handed hitter in the NL after Albert Pujols, and he's likely correct) smacked a double that the wind took away from a frantically reaching Fukudome, scoring the tying and lead runs. Wood got Prince Fielder to ground out to end the inning with the Cubs only down by one.
Now what would you have done after Ronny Cedeno walked? Would you have had Geovany Soto bunt? Dave said he would. I wouldn't have, but Eric Gagne threw offspeed stuff to Soto (unlike the fastballs Soto hammered last night) and got Soto on a called third strike on a pitch that you can't, simply cannot, look at. Pie then hit into a double play to end it. Should Cedeno have been running? Had he been running on Soto's at-bat, he'd at least have stayed out of the DP. And we all know how bad Jason Kendall is at throwing out runners (though, he has been better so far this year, throwing out nine of 22 runners trying to steal).
All of this on a day we should have been celebrating. Carlos Zambrano launched a ball into the left-field bleachers (opposite field, hitting left-handed, no less) for his 13th career HR, tying Fergie Jenkins for the most career HR by a Cubs pitcher -- and Fergie had 893 AB as a Cub, Z has accomplished this in fewer than half as many AB, 430 after today. Z also threw a good, if a little pitch-heavy (111), six and a third innings, lowering his ERA to 2.11 by allowing only one run -- a HR to Braun that tied the game in the sixth. An error on a miscommunication between Johnson and Fukudome on the next batter, Fielder, threatened to untie the game, but Z got Corey Hart to strike out and then Fukudome nailed Fielder at the plate on a perfect throw (I think we could feel the ground move underneath us as the 260-pound Fielder crashed into the 230-pound Soto at the plate, Soto hanging on to the ball for the out).
Tougher losses you will not find. It's especially bad when:
a) the game seemed well in hand, and
b) the opponent is one of your biggest divisional rivals.
The loss drops the Cubs 1/2 game behind the idle Cardinals into second place, and the Cubs are only a game ahead of the third-place Brewers, who won four of the first six meetings between the teams -- but remember this. Two of the games, today and Opening Day, were tough games that could have gone either way. These two teams won't meet again until the last week of July, nearly three months from now, and by then the divisional race should be taking shape much more clearly than it is today. I don't expect the Cardinals, off to a good start, to be able to maintain their pace -- but Milwaukee is a good club (even if their defense and bullpen are a little shaky) and will stay there.
There were a lot of Brewer fans in Wrigley Field for this entire series, unusual for a time when schools are still in session and the weather can be iffy (though it was pleasant today, no rain and a game-time temperature of 70); I'd say perhaps 5,000 to 7,000 fans chanted "Let's Go Brewers!" through that 9th inning rally. Unlike past days there didn't seem to be any Brewer/Cub fan incidents, and those really are unfortunate. I think part of it stems from the fact that over the last few years, Cub fans have taken over Miller Park during Cub/Brewer series and Milwaukee fans have developed a bit of a chip on their shoulders as a result.
Maybe I'm off base, but that's how I see it. It doesn't have to be this way. These were hard-fought games and there's a nascent rivalry that might, in time, be close to the Cub/Cardinal rivalry for proximity and team competition. To any Brewer fans out there -- I respect your team and how it's been built. Let's have a GOOD rivalry, not the Yankee/Red Sox kind where the fans genuinely despise each other.
And for those of you who suffered here at BCB (a couple of BCB readers, Bartlett Bob and zambranofan, joined us in the bleachers today)... I guess all I can say is, it's early, apart from today the team has played consistently well. As Z said himself in his postgame comments, they just have to pick up and play tomorrow in St. Louis and get back to winning.
Speaking of the next Cub/Brewer series, it is during that series that Wrigley Field will host their Midwest League affiliate Peoria Chiefs taking on the Kane County Cougars, at 7:05 pm on Tuesday, July 29, and for people who can't get Cub tickets because they are either unavailable or unaffordable, this is a chance to see the Cubs' future at a reasonable price:
Tickets will be available tomorrow at 9 a.m. on www.cubs.com and will range from $10 for Terrace Reserved seats, Upper Deck Reserved seats and the general admission bleachers; $12 for terrace box seats; and $15 for club and field box seats, bleacher box seats and upper deck box seats. A total of 280 designated premium seats, priced from $25-$30, will also be available as part of tomorrow's on-sale event.
Also note that:
If the Cubs sell more than 10,000 tickets for the game, it will count as one of the team's night games.
There's no preference given to Cub season ticket holders for this event, so I intend to be online tomorrow at 9 am (CDT) along with the rest of you, because I want to be part of this event, too. Besides seeing Cub prospects, it will mark the return of Ryne Sandberg to Wrigley Field in a baseball uniform for the first time since 1997, as the Chiefs' manager:
"It's an opportunity for everybody involved," Sandberg said Thursday at Wrigley. "It's a chance of a lifetime for some of these players to come here and play a game at Wrigley Field. I'm excited about it, and I know the fans will have some fun with the game."
Fleetwood Mac sang the lyrics at the top of this post. The Cubs will have to pick up the pieces and instead of going home, go on the road and win, starting tomorrow. I have faith in this team that they can do it. Till then.