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Cubs Lose To Rulebook And Reds

These games are starting to defy the belief of even those of us who watch all of them. It's like watching an unreal reality show, if there were such a thing.

The Cubs lost to the Reds 7-5, getting swept in the brief two-game series, but that wasn't the entire story. It rarely is, these days.

First, let's talk about the rulebook issue, which happened in the bottom of the sixth inning. Miguel Cairo struck out and Welington Castillo didn't quite hold on to the ball. The Cubs started leaving the field; CSN cut to commercial. Meanwhile, Cairo walked toward the dugout, bat in hand, and suddenly started running toward first base. While it's clear that Castillo made a mistake by not tagging Cairo, but MLB rule 6.09 (b) makes absolutely clear what the ruling should be in a case like this:

A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.

That's precisely what happened. Cairo left the dirt circle and should have been declared out by plate umpire John Hirschbeck. Castillo was charged with an error, which is also an odd ruling. It didn't matter -- or so we thought -- because the next hitter, Drew Stubbs, struck out to end the inning.

But who knows? Matt Garza had to throw four more pitches, and a hitter batted who shouldn't have. Who knows what that did to the rest of the game for the Reds?

The rest of the game was almost even further beyond belief. In addition to the Castillo error, the Cubs made three other errors, one each by Garza, Carlos Pena and Kerry Wood, all of them avoidable mistakes. They led to all seven Cincinnati runs being unearned. We were informed by Len Kasper that this was the first time the Cubs had played a game where they had allowed this many runs, all unearned, since 1957.

Here's the game in question, the second game of a doubleheader on July 28, 1957. Look at the Cubs record after that loss: 32-61. Are we headed for something that bad? Let's hope not, but this team just played absolutely poor baseball tonight.

The errors and resulting Reds runs ruined Carlos Pena's 33rd birthday; he celebrated in the first inning by giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead with his fifth home run of the season. Even after the Pena and Garza errors gave the Reds three unearned runs to tie it in the fourth, the Cubs came back with single runs in the seventh and eighth to take the lead. Both runs involved Tony Campana, making his major league debut in front of a lot of hometown fans from nearby Springport, Ohio (and hardly anyone else, it seemed; there couldn't have been more than a third of the announced 18,861 in GABP on a miserable, rainy night). Campana scored the go-ahead run as a pinch-runner for Alfonso Soriano and then doubled in his first MLB at-bat in the next inning to drive in the Cubs' fifth run.

It wasn't enough. Wood's error, a very ill-conceived throw to third base, wound up tracked down by Campana in the left-field corner. Two runs scored. The Reds scored seven runs and had only one RBI (on a sacrifice fly; in the 1957 game, though all the runs were unearned, the Phillies had five RBI).

It's mindboggling. The field and ball were wet from the rain, but I didn't see the Reds have any problems fielding it, so the Cubs can't use that as an excuse. The evening got so bad that for a time, CSN Chicago lost the feed from Len & Bob in Cincinnati and I briefly heard my TV spew out the voice of Thom Brennaman, as they had picked up the Reds telecast from FSN Ohio, before switching back after a minute or so.

I don't know what else to say. Though the Cubs had little trouble scoring runs Tuesday night, they could have scored more; 2-for-11 with RISP again doesn't give much hope for that to change any time soon, and they had even more trouble preventing runs from scoring.

It's on to Miami for two against the Marlins. At least the Cubs know it won't be cold there. If it is... well, then they have a problem of a different sort.