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Sun Slowly Setting On Cubs; Lose Again To Pirates

Today's original weather forecast called for coolish temperatures, but sunshine. Instead, the sun slowly faded away behind a thickening layer of high clouds; it never quite disappeared, but neither did it provide any warmth on a 56-degree afternoon.

Metaphorically, that's just about where the 2010 Cubs are. They haven't disappeared... yet. But neither do they provide much excitement, happiness, or victories... today's 4-3 loss to the Pirates was just the latest in a depressingly similar string.

Lou's comment in his postgame remarks was telling: "We've tried a little bit of just about everything."

Really, Lou? Really? Everything? How about trying a suicide squeeze with the tying run on third and one out in the ninth? Did this even occur to you? Ryan Theriot, a pretty good bunter, is at bat with a good baserunner, Kosuke Fukudome, on third base. What's the worst that could have happened? The same thing that DID happen, a loss? Why not go for it and try to energize things? It was obviously what the Pirates were talking about on the mound, so maybe they were looking for it -- but you can still execute such a play even if the other team's looking for it.

Instead, Theriot struck out and so did Marlon Byrd, game over.

As usual, Ryan Dempster deserved better, even after his shaky 31-pitch first inning that resulted in three Pirates runs. Dempster threw 123 pitches in all -- the most by any Cubs starter this year so far -- and finished seven innings thanks to a couple of double plays and nine strikeouts. The Cubs didn't help him out in those seven innings, leaving six on base. Regarding Aramis Ramirez's attempt to score on Geovany Soto's base hit in the third inning, which would have tied the game -- Mike Quade sent him and I would have done the same. It took a perfect throw from Ryan Church to get A-Ram, and Church made that perfect throw. In a 3-2 game in the third inning, that was a worthwhile chance to take.

Unfortunately, the Cubs could do nothing until the ninth, when the run that Fukudome drove in after a Starlin Castro walk could only bring them back to the same one-run deficit. Carlos Marmol had not allowed a home run all season... until Jeff Clement, who came into the game hitting .182 with 27 strikeouts in 88 at-bats, hit one off him.

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. All the Cubs can do is try to salvage the final game of the series and at last, beat these guys for the first time this season. After posting a 145-97 record at Wrigley Field in Lou Piniella's first three years as manager, the Cubs are 8-10 at home so far in 2010 -- and this despite outscoring the opposition 91-89 in home games. The Cubs are now 4-8 in one-run games and -- ready for this? -- 4-18 in games where they have scored four runs or fewer.

Final note, in case you missed it earlier: the Cubs/White Sox game at Wrigley on Sunday, June 13, has been selected by ESPN for their feature Sunday night game. We can only hope the Cubs have turned things around by then... perhaps under a new manager.