Six hours and 22 minutes of game time and about two hours and 15 minutes of interregnum yesterday combined for a double Cubs defeat to the Giants, 13-7 in the day game and 6-3 in the night game; the Giants have now won seven in a row, and the Cubs dropped to 9-18 for June.
About the only truly nice thing about Tuesday was the weather, probably the nicest day we've had in Chicago all spring and summer; temperatures were in the low 80s, humidity was low, there was a nice breeze and there was virtually unlimited sunshine, interrupted only by a handful of fair-weather clouds.
I could talk for a long time about the weather, especially the fact that we have not had consecutive completely sunny days in Chicago since February (according to Tom Skilling, and we may have that today), but this is, after all, a Cubs and baseball site, so let's talk about this dreary doubleheader instead. Fact: it was the first time the Cubs had been swept in a doubleheader since the last week of the 2009 season, when they were swept at home by the Pirates. (OK, enough history, you're saying, on with it!)
The Giants have the second-best record in the National League, now 12 games over .500. How they have done this up to now is a mystery, because before yesterday's doubleheader, they had a negative run differential, -4; by outscoring the Cubs by nine total runs yesterday, they're now in positive territory, 284 runs scored to 279 allowed. They moved from 16th to 15th in the NL in runs.
Actually, I do know how the Giants have been doing this -- their excellent pitching staff and bullpen; they're 22-11 in one-run games.
Yesterday, they didn't need that bullpen or closer Brian Wilson until the ninth inning of game two, when an Aramis Ramirez home run off Guillermo Mota led Bruce Bochy to make two pitching changes in the ninth inning -- maybe he's been taking Mike Quade lessons, one of the reasons he named Quade to replace resigned Nationals manager Jim Riggleman to his All-Star team coaching staff yesterday.
And the Giants, scoring 19 runs yesterday, scored more than they had in their previous seven games combined. The 13 runs posted in the first game was the most they had scored since... they shut out the Cubs 13-0 last September 23 at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs tried to keep the first game close; it was only 6-3 Giants when SF blasted Doug Davis (who gave up 10 earned runs, raising his ERA from 5.01 to 6.50) and Chris Carpenter for five in the fifth, making it 11-3. The Cubs came back with three more in the bottom of the inning, but that only prolonged the agony. Carlos Pena and Koyie Hill (who has now equalled a career high, two home runs in a season) homered in the first game, which lasted three hours and 22 minutes. Only six other Cubs nine-inning games this year have lasted that long.
The game ended about 4:45 and it was announced the gates would open for game two at 6:00, but the cleaning crew did their job quickly and the Cubs opened up for the nightcap at 5:30. If only they had started then; game two slogged along almost as languidly as game one. The Cubs actually led this game and Rodrigo Lopez was pitching reasonably well until the fifth inning, when they should have been out of the inning after just three batters. Andres Torres singled, stole second and went to third when Carlos Pena made a slick stop of Emmanuel Burriss' sharp ground ball.
So with one out, Pablo Sandoval hit a fly ball to shallow center. Reed Johnson made a perfect throw, tagging Torres... and that should have ended the inning with the Cubs leading 2-1.
But Geovany Soto dropped the ball. I watched the replay several times. Mike Quade and Soto argued vehemently. It looked like plate umpire Tim McClelland made the right call.
Still, this only made the score 2-2 with two out and no one on base. But the Cubs fell apart after that. After two more hits Lopez was lifted; John Grabow came in and gave up three more hits and by the time he got Torres, batting for the second time in the inning, to pop to Starlin Castro to end it to a very loud chorus of boos, the Giants led 6-2. Ramirez's consolation home run made it 6-3.
In games started by Davis, Lopez, Casey Coleman and James Russell, the Cubs are 4-19, 15 games under .500. This accounts for almost their entire deficit to the .500 mark, as they are 16 under overall. Even .500-level replacement starters would have the team, presumably, around .500. Starting pitching, which many of us thought would be a strength this year, has been a tremendous disappointment.
The crowd for game 1, which was a makeup of a rainout on Sunday, May 15, was announced as 39,157; it looked like about 30,000 were in the house during the day. A few hundred fewer tickets were sold for the night game --38,360 -- with about the same number in actual attendance, many of whom stared to leave early after the Giants' five-run fifth.
Let us hope we have seen the last of Rodrigo Lopez in a Cubs uniform. A favorable scoring change after the game was over, changing the play at the plate to an error on Soto instead of a sacrifice fly, took three earned runs off Lopez's record, "dropping" his ERA from 6.87 to 5.40. Enough already. Marcos Mateo was recalled for game two with DJ LeMahieu sent to Iowa (it'll be his first Triple-A action). Mateo actually pitched pretty well, giving credit where it's due, but the Cubs don't need 13 pitchers and Darwin Barney is supposed to be activated today. Give Lopez his figurative gold retirement watch and release him, please.
I see this didn't wind up "fairly short", but then again, neither was the doubleheader. After tonight's game, the Cubs will have played half the 2011 schedule. Hasn't been a lot of fun. Hope the second half at least brings better weather than the first half did, and a little better baseball. (And played more quickly, please.)