After the end of the eighth inning, someone must have called Wrigley Field and let them know that the rental of the good Cubs from the last couple of days was up and they needed to return the Cubs from the first half.
What other explanation could there be? Eight innings of solid pitching from Randy Wells (who allowed six singles and a double, exactly one hit in each of his seven innings) and Sean Marshall, and a perfect suicide squeeze bunt from Ryan Theriot to score Starlin Castro, who had doubled. Carlos Marmol was on tap to close it out. What could go wrong?
The answer to that question is, "everything". Marmol wound up issuing five walks while throwing 2/3 of an inning. Via tweet from Carrie, we learn that hasn't happened to a Cubs reliever in 60 years:
The last time a #Cubs pitcher walked at least 5 batters in relief outing of 1 inning or less was Johnny Vander Meer, July 27, 1950.
But that isn't all. There was also a perfect throw from Tyler Colvin to Geovany Soto after Placido Polanco singled following the first two of those walks. It arrived in plenty of time to nail Brian Schneider and that would have ended the game in a 1-0 Cubs win... but Soto dropped the ball. Schneider was out by at least 10 feet.
After three more walks -- one intentional to Ryan Howard after Jimmy Rollins stole second, something they really had to do rather than let Howard smash a ball onto Sheffield -- James Russell came into the game and failed to cover first on a routine grounder to Derrek Lee that would have ended the inning with the Cubs trailing "only" 3-1.
It was brutal. The Cubs lost a winnable game, 4-1 to the Phillies.
The shame of it isn't just losing the way they did, but the fact that for the first seven innings, Randy Wells matched up very well with Cole Hamels. Wells scattered seven hits, walked a pair and got out of innings with good defense. So did Hamels; he allowed just the one run when Theriot's excellent bunt scored Castro -- and the Cubs had a shot at more runs because Theriot wound up safe at first.
Unfortunately, he then performed his first TOOTBLAN of the second half, getting thrown out stealing with only one out. The Cubs got the leadoff man -- Derrek Lee -- on base in the eighth, and then he too was thrown out; I suppose there must have been a missed sign somewhere, because D-Lee doesn't go on straight steals any more (this was only his fifth SB attempt in the last two years).
To give up completely after just one bad game is foolish. As noted on the postgame WGN radio show, the Cubs have little margin for error. However, that doesn't mean that suddenly everyone is tradeable again. Let's see what happens tomorrow and in the series vs. the Astros over the next few days. The Cubs have shown that they can hang in there vs. a pretty good pitcher (Hamels). Hopefully, they'll do the same against Roy Halladay tomorrow.
Schedule note: tomorrow's game shows on original schedules as a 5:05 pm CDT start -- it has been moved back to ESPN's usual Sunday night time of 7:05 pm CDT.