TORONTO -- Sean Gallagher threw a pretty nice game last night.
But the Cubs lost to the Blue Jays 3-2, snapping a four-game winning streak, you're saying. What is Al talking about? The road finally get to him?
No, it didn't, though I was almost literally driving door-to-door from Wrigley Field, where I left Thursday's game, stopped at home to pick up my stuff, hit rush-hour traffic, stopped in Lansing, Michigan, overnight, and arrived in Toronto just in time to say "Hi" to my very nice bed-&-breakfast hosts, then leave for the game.
Gallagher DID throw well -- that is, except when he lost focus in the third inning and allowed back-to-back HR by two men we are very familiar with. First, it was ex-Cub Matt Stairs (who the Cubs should never have let go -- he could have been a valuable part-time player the last six years), who followed Alex Rios' leadoff double; next, former Cardinal nemesis Scott Rolen followed Stairs' lead by homering just inside the LF foul pole, and that was all the Jays' six pitchers needed. Among those six was yet another ex-Cub, Scott Downs, who has turned from a young starter who couldn't get the ball over the plate for the 2000 Cubs into a premier setup man. Some friends of mine from my Colgate University class, who live here in Toronto and were at the game, told me that Downs writes the names of his kids in the dirt on the mound before his first pitch of every appearance.
Digression? Sure, because do you really want to hear me talk about all the squandered opportunities? The Cubs left 11 last night, including an awful inning where they had the bases loaded with nobody out, A. J. Burnett (who had stymied the Cubs for the first five) on the ropes, and scored only once, on an Eric Patterson single with one out. They had appeared to score two batters earlier, when Jim Edmonds singled with runners on first and second; Kosuke Fukudome, the runner on second, rounded third and scored easily. Time was called and he was sent back to third; this was never explained at the park, and if you missed it, here it is:
The shot from Edmonds had hit the arm of the second-base umpire and was ruled a dead-ball single. Had the ball not hit the umpire, Fukudome would have scored from second, but he was instead called back to third, after the umpires realized what had happened.
Lou came out and briefly argued, but this makes sense. The Cubs still had a good shot at taking the game back that inning, but Ryan Theriot hit into a double play. That seemed to suck all the life out of the Cubs; they managed only three harmless singles the rest of the way. The bullpen did a good job of keeping the game close, at least, and in the 9th, the Cubs did get a runner on base (Derrek Lee, who walked) with two out -- this after ex-Blue Jay Reed Johnson got a rousing ovation from the Jays (and Cubs) fans before pinch-hitting for Micah Hoffpauir.
They kept the roof closed last night because of a forecast of rain, and that was a good thing, because in the late innings, audible thunder rumbled overhead and by the time the game ended, there was a pretty good downpour outside. My friends graciously offered a ride back for me, but that required a walk through the rain, which is the reason this recap is being written now rather than last night. While waiting for the rain to let up, I ran into Len Kasper and Bob Brenly also outside, saying they needed to find a cab back to their hotel -- I assume they eventually found one, because they disappeared into the wet night. (Thanks again, guys, for the interviews earlier this year.) The now corporately-named Rogers Centre has been vastly improved since I was last here in 2003; the concourses, once dark and forbidding, have been painted in lighter colors. They're still a bit dark, but better, and the food selection seems much more varied, and lines move fairly fast. The Jumbotron, also new, shows detailed stats on every player in the lineup, though at one point it said Derrek Lee had "grouned" to short in the 7th.
The Cubs have won so often in this so-far terrific season that it feels really strange when they lose. However, we must remember the silly old phrase, "You can't win 'em all", and know that is literally true. Toronto's got a pretty decent team that has struggled in part because their closer, B. J. Ryan, has blown two saves in the last two weeks. It won't get any easier today with Roy Halladay going, although Halladay, like Tim Hudson on Thursday (similar numbers) isn't unbeatable (five losses). I'll have a game thread up in a few hours.