The Cubs failed to lose on a brilliantly sunny and warm Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, instead scoring more runs than the Cincinnati Reds, 3-1. This allowed the Cubs to increase the number in an unfamiliar category on the sports page, "Wins".
Actually, this was quite a strange game. The Cubs got 15 men on base before one was able to score; the 17 men left on base is a team record for a nine-inning game and only one short of the National League record for LOB in a nine-inning game (and that's been done only five times, and the Cubs left their 17 on base in only seven innings, going 1-2-3 in the eighth).
Before I move on to praising Randy Wells for taking a no-hitter (with one walk) into the seventh inning and winding up with a four-hit, 7.2 inning effort with only one run allowed, let me echo Bob Brenly's call-out of Wells in the fourth inning while laying down a sacrifice bunt. Reds first baseman Joey Votto threw wildly and 2B Brandon Phillips had to stretch for the throw and then step on the base. Meanwhile, Wells was loafing down the line -- he would have been safe if he'd been running the play out.
Brenly said, "Play the game!" That's exactly correct. Laying down a sacrifice bunt doesn't mean you don't try. Anything can happen and nearly did; instead of having a pair of runners on and nobody out, which might have led to actual scoring in that inning, the Cubs left a pair on base.
Now, it's time to praise Wells, who had excellent command of his pitches today and, finally running out of gas in the eighth inning, had to be relieved by Carlos Marmol with the tying run at the plate. In fact, if not for some bad baserunning by the Reds in the seventh, they probably would have scored then, since they broke up the no-hitter with three straight hits including a double by Scott Rolen. Rookie Chris Heisey, who had led off the seventh with the clean single to left that broke up the no-no, got caught between second and third when a pitch briefly got away from Geovany Soto; he was thrown out trying to get back to second.
And the bullpen never got going until there were multiple runners on base. I guarantee you, Bobby Cox or Tony LaRussa wouldn't have waited that long to get their pens up. Wells wound up with 71 strikes in 99 pitches thrown, but on a moderately warm day, he appeared to be running out of gas long before Lou pulled him -- and it wasn't as if Lou needed to leave him in to qualify for the win in the eighth, since the Cubs were already ahead!
Carlos Marmol issued a walk, but otherwise had an uneventful inning for his 15th save.
By no means does this solve any problems. Going back to the sixth inning on Tuesday -- when Alfonso Soriano homered to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead which they held -- the Cubs have scored in only two of 38 innings (the pair of runs they scored in the eighth inning on Thursday, and the three in the sixth today). The offense is sluggish and can't seem to cash in on opportunities -- witness the ridiculous number of runners left on base today. There have been only 26 games in Cubs team history (since 1920) when they have left 17 or more men on base; until today, all of those had been extra-inning games.
Nevertheless, a win is a win. 40,677 was the announced paid attendance, a few hundred more than yesterday, although it looked smaller. The first half of the season ends with the team 11 games under .500 -- not good -- but a win tomorrow would, at least, give them a series split against a Reds club that looks pretty solid.