Well, it had to end sometime, right?
The Cubs' longest winning streak in two years was snapped last night by Matt Cain and three Giants relievers; the Giants' 1-0 win over the Cubs was the fifth 1-0 game they've been involved in this year (three wins, two losses) and the 57th 1-0 game in the major leagues in 2010 (36 last year, 38 in 2008).
It was the first time since the Cubs played the Reds in late August that they had played a genuine postseason contender (the Cardinals, reeling when the Cubs swept them last week, don't really qualify), and give both starting pitchers last night credit.
Matt Cain was nearly unhittable, allowing just a pair of singles (Kosuke Fukudome and Blake DeWitt) and a walk (Starlin Castro). The Cubs ran themselves out of the first inning when Castro was caught stealing after the walk, and Marlon Byrd erased DeWitt and ended the sixth inning by hitting into a double play.
Those, plus Castro being hit by a pitch right before that DP and Byrd reaching on an error, were the only Cubs baserunners of the night and DeWitt the only one to reach second. Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano was throwing an extraordinary number of pitches and issuing far too many walks, but he also struck out eight (four of them on full counts) and worked his way out of two bases-loaded jams. It wasn't his best night, but he kept his team in position to win despite not having command.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, Buster Posey -- the likely NL Rookie of the Year -- hit a ball to the deepest part of the ballpark, right next to the 400-foot sign, that bounced off the top of the wall behind the basket as Byrd watched helplessly. The solo home run was the only extra-base hit of the game, despite a wind blowing out still fairly strong after impressive-looking thunderstorms rolled through.
The storms hit about an hour before game time and ended shortly after the original starting time of 7:05. Winds gusted as high as 40 MPH and the grounds crew had the tarps -- both the main one and the ones in the bullpens -- held down by sandbags. They had just gotten it all put away and were putting Turface on the infield when it started raining hard again, so they had to cover everything up. Radars didn't look very promising even by the time the game started at 8:15, but no more rain fell, except a few drops just as Byrd grounded out to end the game, which turned out to be the sixth-fastest by time all season at 2:20.
The announced crowd of 36,364 -- well, let's say there were maybe half that many in the park, actually a surprisingly large number considering the weather. Large swaths of the 500-level seats appeared to be unsold, so that "paid" number seems to be a bit high. A fair number of fans wearing orange and black were in attendance rooting for the Giants, even though it's late in the year and kids are (supposedly) in school.
With the Giants and Padres both winning last night, San Francisco maintains the NL West lead by half a game over San Diego -- but the Padres trail the Braves by only one game for the wild card, with the Rockies just two games farther back. The Cubs will have more say in both races with two more games coming up against the Giants and four with the Padres.
As for Big Z, he needs two more strikeouts to pass Charlie Root for second place on the all-time Cubs list. On normal rest, he'd pitch the last home game, but manager Mike Quade has other plans:
Before the game, Quade said Jeff Samardzija would pitch Sunday against the Cardinals in the final home game of the season but Zambrano has other plans.
"I pitch Sunday," Zambrano said.
We'll see. His mother won't be able to get to Wrigley Field that quick. She just got her visa and was expected in Houston next week for Zambrano's last start, the first time she'll see her son in the big leagues. He got more good news from his native Venezuela. His nephew, who was in a coma because of a bacterial infection, was able to celebrate his 12th birthday at home.
"I called him to wish him many, many more birthdays," Zambrano said. "It was nice to call him yesterday."
Whether he starts Sunday or Monday in San Diego, Zambrano is hoping he'll be on the mound on Opening Day 2011 at Wrigley Field.
Well. Tom Gorzelanny is being inserted back in the rotation Friday, which is the reason for the change, but it sure wouldn't hurt to let Big Z throw in front of the home crowd on Sunday. That link, incidentally, also notes that Jim Hendry was in Arizona yesterday formally interviewing Ryne Sandberg for the manager's job. As also stated in that cubs.com article:
"Evaluations are going on all over the place," Quade said.
Indeed. Let's get back to winning tonight. The Cubs trail the fourth-place Brewers by only one game.