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Same Old Story: Good Pitching, No Clutch Hitting, Cubs Lose

The Cubs lost to the Nationals 3-2 at Wrigley Field today, and before I get to the same old recap, I know that all of you want to talk about Marlon Byrd's spectacular, no-look, behind-the-back catch off a sinking line drive from Nats pitcher Luis Atilano.

For a while, no one in the ballpark even realized Byrd had caught the ball -- except there was no ball visible around Byrd, no ball bouncing away, no other outfielder chasing anything. Then Byrd simply flipped the ball back into the infield as if he does this sort of thing on a daily basis, and Atilano, having reached second base, stood there staring at Byrd in disbelief.

I wish I could tell you that all helped result in a Cubs victory, but the proverbial "same old song" was the case for the Cubs this afternoon. Six times a Cubs leadoff hitter reached base. Only twice did one score. The Cubs left 11 men on base, including RISP in the first, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh and eighth, this included having a runner on second with nobody out and not getting him home. Lou got testy in the postgame press conference when asked why he didn't have Mike Fontenot bunt Byrd over with nobody out. "What kind of baseball do you play?" he asked the reporter. Sure, with a lefthanded batter up, a ball to the right side to advance the runner was called for -- Fontenot couldn't deliver, instead popping up.

Sarcasm alert: where's Aaron Miles when you need a ground ball to second base? (No, I don't want him back. Just sayin'.)

Ryan Dempster deserved better -- he threw eight solid innings, giving up three runs. One of them was a HR to Adam Dunn. That's understandable; Dunn hits lots of home runs. Another, though, was a first-inning HR by Adam Kennedy. I realize Kennedy hit 11 HR for the A's last year, but really -- this is the kind of thing that you pay for later, and with a one-run difference in the game, you just can't give up homers like this one.

Today, there weren't even great defensive plays or balls hit hard for outs. Aramis Ramirez came up with runners on first and second and nobody out in the 7th and hit into a double play. After Fontenot's popup in the 8th, Chad Tracy struck out and looked bad doing it. Byrd popped up in the 5th with the bases loaded and one out.

The fact is, the Nationals are no pushover, especially with a closer as good as Matt Capps. Nevertheless, if the Cubs are going to consider themselves a contender this year, they're going to have to figure out how to get production out of the players they have, or maybe some of the changes already discussed here (or others) will happen. There's a sense of urgency for Lou, I'm guessing, because this may be his last chance to get back to the World Series. Stay tuned.

Today's announced crowd of 36,660 was the smallest of the season to date, not surprising, I suppose, given a weekday afternoon in April and a non-marquee opponent. The bleachers were not-quite-full and there were wide swaths of empty seats in the rest of the ballpark; I'd guess not more than 20,000 were actually in the house. Nice to have met BCB'er Clutch16 today. Tomorrow's 74-degree forecast may bring a few more people to Wrigley. Let's hope it brings some more Cub offense, too.