If you like outfield defense, last night's 3-0 Padres shutout of the Cubs had to be your kind of game.
Kosuke Fukudome made a nice diving catch in right field off a sinking line drive by Padres pitcher Chris Young in the third inning for the Cubs, but the real story was the Padres' Will Venable, who stole not one, but two home runs from Cubs hitters.
"The first catch was good," manager Mike Quade said. "The second catch was phenomenal."
Hype is big in sports, but Quade didn't overhype either one. The first one, robbing Alfonso Soriano of what would have been his 25th home run of the season, was actually a little better than "good"; Venable caught it just before it was about to bounce into the Padres' bullpen in center field. And Quade had the second one right, too -- it was phenomenal; Venable leaped higher than the seven-foot fence in left field and reached his glove over, stealing a home run from Aramis Ramirez that, at the time, would have given the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Ramirez just stared in disbelief.
The Cubs also blew a chance to have a big first inning off Young, when they put runners on second and third with nobody out, but couldn't score. This was reminiscent of the bad old Cubs from earlier this year, leaving runners in scoring position that way. Letting Young off the hook early seemed to make him stronger, and then Venable's two catches kept the Cubs scoreless.
Now, while the outfield defense for the Cubs was good, infield defense: not so much. No error was charged on the second-inning play where Chase Headley's ground ball to Xavier Nady at first base ricocheted off his glove; a throw home failed to get Adrian Gonzalez, but the Cubs prevented further damage by throwing Yorvit Torrealba out at third base.
And the Padres' second run scored on a Randy Wells wild pitch that easily could have been ruled a passed ball on Koyie Hill.
Other than that, Wells turned in another quality start -- three runs allowed in seven innings -- his 18th of the year in 32 starts, and the Cubs' 92nd of the season, fourth-most in the National League (but only three fewer than the league-leading Giants). In two starts against the Padres in 2010 covering 14 innings, the Cubs scored zero runs for Randy. He finished the season strong, with a 3.12 ERA over his last six starts, pretty close to his 3.05 season ERA in 2009.
The Padres' win kept them two games behind the Giants in the NL West; the two teams will play this weekend in San Francisco. They also trail the Braves by 1.5 games in the wild card race. The chances of a three-way tie are still alive.
Today's game has an unusual starting time of 5:35 CDT. The pregame thread will be up at 3:30 pm CDT.