Man, I don't really even know where to begin with this recap of the Cubs' 5-4, come-from-ahead loss to the Pirates this afternoon.
So instead of bitching and complaining about Carlos Marmol's blown save -- because those are going to happen -- let's talk first about some of the good stuff.
Starlin Castro is just outstanding. His two triples today, his first two of the year, left him with a batting average of .615 after three games (since he also singled and walked, an excellent showing for a leadoff man, since the walk led off the Cubs' first inning).
Carlos Pena nearly hit a grand slam, hitting a ball just below the RF basket below the bleacher boxes, where a fan spilled what at first appeared to be a beer, but the telltale neon yellow cup showed it was a Mai Tai, on right fielder Garrett Jones. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle came out and argued -- about what, I'm not sure, since it clearly wasn't deliberate -- but the real issue was some wacky baserunning that left Aramis Ramirez on third. The ball bounced far enough away that all three runs should have scored. Do that and maybe we're still playing baseball today.
Tyler Colvin made a bullet throw to the plate in the eighth to nail Jason Jaramillo with what would have been a tying run. The entire team seemed fired up after that... too bad that didn't last.
Alfonso Soriano got booed for his first two at-bats but then cheered for his (and the team's) first home run of the season, that gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
And Matt Garza had one of the strangest pitching days I've ever seen. He gave up 12 hits -- all singles -- issued no walks, and had a career-high 12 strikeouts. Since 1919, there have been only two other pitchers in the major leagues who have had games where they did that and threw at least seven innings: Todd Stottlemyre for the A's vs. the Angels on Sept. 20, 1995 and Curt Schilling for the Diamondbacks vs. the Marlins on April 25, 2001. Both of those pitchers won their games. Garza should have won this one.
Unfortunately, we got Bad Carlos Marmol today. He didn't have command -- threw only seven strikes in 13 pitches -- and walked the leadoff hitter. After a single and a sacrifice, Marmol got Pedro Alvarez to hit a dribbler that went about 70 feet; Marmol slipped and couldn't handle it and two runs scored. Personally, I would have thought about walking Alvarez to set up a force play -- and the next hitter, Matt Diaz, hit into an inning-ending double play.
Then, in the last of the ninth, ex-Cub Ronny Cedeno tried to do his old team a favor by throwing a potential game-ending DP ball hit by Darwin Barney into right field after Castro's third hit. That put the tying run on third base -- so why did Marlon Byrd swing at the first pitch? He ended the game with a DP ball, when all he had to do was try to loft a ball into the outfield, which would have tied the game.
So the Cubs' playing victim to the Pirates continues this season. However, as I noted, there were a lot of good things to be taken out of this defeat (other than the defeat) and if the Cubs keep playing this way, they'll win their share of games... hopefully, more than their share. There are plenty of teams that were expected to contend that lost two of three this weekend or even got swept (Rays, Red Sox, Brewers).
Attendance was announced as 30,857, but not more than about 20,000 were in the house on a day that first seemed as if the wind blowing out would lead to multiple home runs; shortly after game time it shifted off the lake and the temperature dropped. That's the fourth-smallest paid crowd since 2003 and the smallest on a weekend since Sunday, April 13, 2003, when 29,558 paid to see the Cubs defeat the Pirates 4-3. That makes the average for the first three home games 35,999, and it's likely going to drop over the next three days when the Cubs have three weekday afternoon contests against a non-draw opponent, the Diamondbacks, with iffy weather. And it won't go back up unless this team starts winning.
Which I still believe they can do. Despite this brutal loss, I found some good things in this game, which I hope the team can build on. Tomorrow, Randy Wells makes his season debut against Arizona's Barry Enright.