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Reds Play Small Ball, Cubs Play Smaller Ball And Lose 3-0

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This, I was thinking during the periods when the 45-degree temperatures weren't freezing my brain, was what baseball might have been like in the deadball era. (There were more people shivering at the park last night; of the 38,738 announced, there appeared to be about 30,000 in the park.)

The Reds scored a run in the third inning in which the ball hit that scored the run itself was the only one among the first four batters of the inning in which the ball left the infield. The Reds' Alex Gonzalez (and in case you were wondering, despite playing for Dusty, this isn't the former Cub -- it's the "other" Alex Gonzalez) bunted, and Ted Lilly couldn't handle the ball, then threw wildly, with Gonzalez winding up on second base. Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto also bunted, and couldn't have rolled the ball down the 1B line better. No one could make a play and both runners were safe; Willy Taveras' fly ball scored Gonzalez.

The game might as well have ended right there. The Cubs couldn't solve Cueto and two Reds relievers and lost 3-0, their first blanking of 2009 and the first time they have been shut out since Randy Wolf, then of the Astros, made them look silly at Wrigley last September 3.

The Cubs had a couple of early-inning chances, getting a runner to second with one out in both the first and fourth innings, but nothing further. Would the game have ended differently if Angel Guzman and Kevin Gregg had not each given up a single run, making that single-run deficit seem almost insurmountable? Maybe, but again, sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other guy. Cueto was outstanding last night, striking out three and walking nobody -- in fact, there were no walks at all in the game, and without a way of quickly checking, I cannot remember the last time I saw a game without a single base on balls. Dusty must have been thrilled.

There are really only two more subjects to cover here; the game preview will be up in a couple of hours. First is the poor day had by Milton Bradley, who struck out three times and appeared to not be running hard after a fly ball in the early innings. Perhaps he should have sat out another day in the cold weather -- he's clearly not running well, still bothered by the injury from over a week ago in Milwaukee. Maybe it would have been better to DL him, in retrospect. The lack of playing time, rather than the lack of hitting, is what bothers me -- this is what many of us worried about when Bradley was signed, the fact that he's spent more time so far not playing than playing. However, let's reserve judgment until he can actually be in the lineup on a consistent basis.

The other note is that Jeff Samardzija is going to be recalled today and be in the bullpen. The Shark was an effective middle reliever last year and the Cubs really need that. According to that Bruce Miles article, Luis Vizcaino is the one who's likely going to be dropped. Vizcaino actually hasn't thrown that badly and rather than simply be released, maybe the Cubs will DFA him (thus, pleasing those of you who like to yell out "DFA! DFA!" when someone plays badly), which is actually a procedural move giving the team 10 days to trade him, release him or (unlikely, given his veteran status) send him down. If they just release him, they eat (approximately) $3.5 million, including a $500,000 buyout of his deal for 2010. It seems likely that someone would pick him up, either by trade or after the Cubs let him go, which would pick up the minimum salary portion of this year's deal and the buyout.

The Cubs can still win this series. Onward to this afternoon.