Of all the jaw-dropping losses this season, this one might be the jaw-droppingest.
Right after Rick Ankiel hit his bases-loaded triple with two out and two strikes in the ninth inning, I spotted Kosuke Fukudome, who had thrown the ball in, standing in front of the right-field wall on the warning track with his hands on his hips, staring into the infield as if to say, "How did I get myself into this?"
I ran into Ballhawk Ken outside the bleachers on my way out of the ballpark after the Cubs' 5-3 loss to the Braves and I told him maybe it was time to put up that "Gone Fishin'" graphic that someone posted in the comments to one of the game threads a couple of weeks ago. Problem is, I didn't save it and I can't find it. If anyone's got it, email it to me. I have a feeling I'm going to need it soon.
Remember that list I posted yesterday? Of the years in which the Cubs had lost at least seven straight home games? Here it is again:
1938 (in a pennant year!), 1943 (twice), 1948, 1949, 1951, 1956, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1967, 1970, 1974 (twice), 1978, 1982, 1994, 1996, 2006 and now 2010
Now it's eight in a row and you can drop the following years from the list: 1948, 1956, 1961, 1967, 1978 and 1982, which leaves the following, and 2010 could move far up the list after this weekend:
1938 (in a pennant year!), 1943 (twice), 1949, 1951, 1960, 1962, 1970, 1974 (twice), 1994 (twice), 1996, 2006 and now 2010 (added a second streak that I located to 1994)
George Ofman, on WGN's postgame show, said the Cubs had lost "five" straight home games. If you heard that, that is not correct. Eight is right -- one to the Braves, four to the Padres, and three to the Reds. The last home win was the 15-3 win over the Brewers on August 4, and that's the only one since July 24 vs. the Cardinals -- 11 of the last 12 home games have been defeats.
What else is there to say? Ryan Dempster pitched his heart out, allowing only one baserunner after the fourth inning. I've called out Lou a number of times this year for leaving a starter in too long to get hit hard, but in this case the reverse was likely true. He'd thrown 106 pitches -- he has had 14 other starts this year when he's thrown more. Granted, it was hot and humid, but it had gotten overcast by the 8th inning and unless Dempster himself said he was done, I'd have sent him out there for the ninth.
The Cubs actually played a pretty good game, getting some clutch two-out hitting for their first run and Aramis Ramirez' 18th HR of the year (and only his third this month). The game should have been won. But in a year like this one...
Derrek Lee received a warm ovation when he stepped up with two out in the first inning; entirely appropriate given his six-plus fine years as a Cub. He acknowledged the crowd with a tip of his helmet and then flied to left. He struck out twice and hit a line drive right at Starlin Castro in his other three AB -- this is something Braves fans, unfortunately for them, may have to get used to for the rest of this season.
One thing the Braves did during batting practice struck me as useful. After each hitter took a few swings, he ran around the bases, practicing, it appeared, situational baserunning given what kind of hit the ensuing batter had. This strikes me as a useful tool to keep you grounded in fundamentals and situations. It is something the Cubs haven't done in at least the last eight years. Also, Braves coaches were hitting fungoes to outfielders and ground balls to infielders.
This is something the next Cubs manager ought to do, I think, no matter who it is.
Finally -- apologies for not having the game preview on the front page; I accidentally unchecked the "front page" box when I set it up to post at 11 am. Guess I'm having a tough year, too. Until tomorrow.