All of that went right out the window again Sunday in an ugly 7-5 loss to Cincinnati which included a pair of errors. The first, on an attempted steal, was given to Geovany Soto, but as Bob Brenly correctly pointed out on the WGN broadcast, that error was Starlin Castro's fault for not being in proper position to block the throw from going into center field after it was clear it hadn't beaten Drew Stubbs trying to steal. That led to an unearned run to give the Reds a 5-3 lead in the 7th. That run might have scored on a subsequent hit, but there was no guarantee; thus, the unearned run.
The second, on an ill-advised throw from Kosuke Fukudome (who's usually solid defensively), resulted directly in the Reds' final run of the day after the throw went into the third-base dugout when Sean Marshall wasn't in proper position to back up the throw.
The two unearned runs were the difference in the game, increasing the Cubs' MLB-leading UER total to 84. This is something that absolutely has to change for the 2011 team. Good fundamentals and good defensive choices are going to have to be drilled into next year's team no matter who the manager is come spring training.
The mistakes ruined a game in which the Cubs came from two runs down not once, but twice. The Reds nibbled at Casey Coleman, scoring single runs in the first, second and third to take a 3-1 lead while the Cubs left the bases loaded in the first inning. Almost forgot -- that's yet another thing the next manager is going to have to work on, good situational hitting so the 2011 Cubs don't leave so many runners on. Today's LOB count: 10, including leaving RISP in the first, fourth and fifth innings, and oh yes, having Jeff Baker thrown out in a rundown in the second, blunting what could have been better than just a single run scored in that inning.
Fundamentals have to be fundamental in 2011. Starlin Castro needs to work hard on them, in particular; the errors, I can forgive, I know those will diminish in time. But he also casually strolled off second base early in the game and was nearly tagged out before he realized what he had done. That kind of thing just can't happen in the major leagues.
Fukudome continued his hot hitting, raising his BA to its highest point (.274) since June 24, and in his last ten games he's hitting .438 with two HR, seven RBI and six walks. As explained by Len & Bob, because the Cubs don't have enough right-handed bench players, one of Fukudome, Blake DeWitt and Tyler Colvin had to start today. Fukudome is hot, so he got the nod. At the very least, he is increasing his trade value; perhaps the Cubs can figure out something else to do with him if he ends up this season strong, going into next year.
But they just have to start playing smarter. This game was winnable.