Did you stay up to watch the end of the Cubs' 4-3, 11th-inning loss to the Giants last night?
If you did, you:
- are one of the last remaining diehards thinking the Cubs can get back in it because they have a mathematical chance;
- live on the West Coast or a time zone even farther west than that, or
- were at AT&T Park along as part of the announced sellout of 41,943.
Actually, the Cubs played a pretty good ballgame Monday night (Tuesday morning in many time zones; the game ended just before 11 pm PDT), if you could ignore the seven walks Carlos Zambrano issued in his return to the rotation. That tied a career high for Z. He threw more strikes than balls -- barely, 49-46 -- and got the support of a couple of double plays, so he allowed just three runs. Maybe "just" isn't the right word, because in the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs caught a break when Buster Posey's double bounced into the seats. Edgar Renteria, who would have scored easily from first base, had to stop at third and the Cubs still led 2-1.
Not satisfied with this bounty, Z wild-pitched Renteria home with the tying run.
Z was permitted to bat for himself in the fifth and contributed a wacky infield single to a rally in which Tyler Colvin drove in a run to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead and put Z in position to register a win.
And here's where I don't understand major league managers' seeming obsession with using as many relief pitchers as possible during a game. Justin Berg relieved Z and had registered a pair of outs while allowing a single to Travis Ishikawa. And then, Alan Trammell (filling in for Lou) decided to yank Berg for James Russell.
Why do that? Why? Just to turn the switch-hitting Andres Torres around to hit righthanded? Does the matchup mean that much when your pitcher has a decent rhythm going? True, Torres doesn't hit lefties that well. But seriously -- when your relief pitcher is throwing well, just leave him alone! The lefty-righty matchup obsession, as well as the refusal to use relief pitchers for more than one or two innings, is something that I hope the next Cubs manager throws out of the manager's arsenal of tricks. Get middle relievers you can use for three innings -- then you can get rid of that seventh reliever and have an extra bench player, who could be useful.
Naturally, Torres drove in the tying run. And there the game sat until the 11th inning. The Cubs didn't even pull out their usual "let's get guys in scoring position in the late innings and not score them" trick; after that sixth-inning run the Cubs had only three baserunners, none making it past first base. One of those runners reached on a rare catcher's interference by Posey (Colvin in the ninth; he, too, was stranded).
Trammell refused to use Carlos Marmol, though Marmol was warming up; instead, the 10th and 11th innings were thrown by non-prospect Marcos Mateo, a 26-year-old righty making his major league debut. What was Trammell saving Marmol for? Pinch-hitting? Well, maybe, because the Cubs had no position players left. Geovany Soto's shoulder has now put him on the disabled list and Derrek Lee, whose grandfather is ill, was placed on the bereavement list. That means D-Lee will miss a minimum of three games and a maximum of seven. Welington Castillo will replace Geo, and Micah Hoffpauir fills in for D-Lee.
Anyway, Mateo gave up a pair of hits and had a pair of K's in the 10th inning and the game might have ended there, except for a nice relay throw from Colvin to Mike Fontenot to Koyie Hill, who tagged Ishikawa out at the plate. Imagine that -- a play at the plate where a Cubs throw actually beats the runner and the catcher makes the tag AND holds on to the ball.
Pardon my cynicism. Mateo, who is the 11th rookie pitcher to throw for the Cubs this season (and 13th overall), stayed in the game. The Cubs were down to Marmol and Casey Coleman as available players. Three hits and a sacrifice fly later, the game was over.
I wound up sitting right in front of Len & Bob's broadcast position; they, along with a number of fans around me, seemed to take a dim view of Bill Walton and a couple of others (including Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart) leading "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" on kazoos, part of the Giants' celebration of "Jerry Garcia Night". I would have liked to get one of the sweet-looking bobbleheads they gave away, but apparently that was limited to people who bought some sort of special ticket that was sold out weeks ago. And then they made people with the bobblehead voucher hoof all the way to the top deck and stand in line for the bobblehead. Why don't teams give promotional items to everyone?
It was also strange, after being at Wrigley many times this summer on tropically humid days and nights, to have to wear a sweatshirt and jacket to a baseball game. By game's end it was getting a little bit cold.
The Giants, in contention, have been drawing well and passed the two million mark in home attendance with last night's crowd, making the ballpark concourses much more crowded than I recall them in my last visit in 2007. Of course, that had a lot to do with the Giants' 91-loss season that year... a mark the Cubs are headed for in a big hurry, with their 11th loss in their last 12 games.
The good news, if any, is to see how quickly a 90+ loss team -- the Giants lost 90 in 2008 also -- can turn things around. In the meantime... this team is quickly turning into the Iowa Cubs, almost literally. Maybe they should recall the manager from Des Moines, too.