This isn't a math question. What does this number sequence represent?
2, 0, 2, 2, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2
If you were watching Monday night's 3-0 Cubs loss to the Braves, you should know the answer to that question. It is the number of runners left on base in each inning, from first to ninth, in the game. Fifteen in all, and that is also the answer to the headline to this post:
Really, that's beyond ridiculous. The Cubs have had trouble scoring runners all season, but fifteen men left on base? This happened last year, too; the Cubs left 17 on base in a 3-1 win over the Reds on July 3, 2010... but other than that, a Cubs team had left 15 or more men on base only once in a nine-inning game since 1979 (April 9, 2002, and they won that game, too, 2-0). In all, last night was the 10th time they had done this since 1919 -- but the first time they had failed to score any runs at all, while having that many baserunners.
Need more? It's only the third time in the last 20 years that the Cubs have been shut out despite having nine or more hits.
Runners on first base. Runners on second base. Runners on third base. Runners in scoring position with less than two out four times without scoring them. I wish I understood this. What could it be? The only explanation that makes sense is that Cubs hitters are not taking the proper situational hitting approach when they bat in these situations. A number of outs were made in these situations by whacking at the first pitch, never a good idea.
Perhaps the new regime that will come in this offseason will begin to correct this problem.
It's too bad, because Ryan Dempster and three relievers (James Russell, Jeff Samardzija and Kerry Wood) pitched pretty well. Dempster gave up a pair of home runs; the one by Dan Uggla reached Waveland, where it was caught by Ballhawk Dave -- and I witnessed the transfer to a throwback ball, which was hurled back onto the field, nearly making the infield dirt. Meanwhile, the bullpen was outstanding -- three perfect innings with five strikeouts. Wood, after having a mediocre first half, has been excellent this month. In his last eight appearances, covering 6.2 innings, Wood has allowed three hits, one earned run (a home run by the Reds' Ramon Hernandez in a game the Cubs won), issued no walks and struck out 15.
Think about that for a moment. 6.2 innings is 20 outs -- so Wood has K's for 15 of the 20 outs he's recorded in those eight outings. Perhaps he's figured out what was going wrong earlier this season. I'd definitely bring him back next year.
Starlin Castro was given the night off due to Sunday's lackadaisical play. That included being left out of an obvious pinch-hitting situation in the ninth inning -- he was the last guy on the bench and Blake DeWitt was left in the game to face lefthander Jonny Venters (closing for the Braves Monday because their regular closer, Craig Kimbrel, had closed three of the last four games).
DeWitt walked, so I suppose it worked out. But it seemed like a bit too much of this "punishment". It appears to me that Castro has learned his lesson; the lesson to the organization should be, "Get management in here that enforces team discipline."
About 27,000 of the announced 37,000 showed up on a gorgeous late-summer evening on which I snapped this photo of the sunset over Wrigley about 7:45. With schools going back into session, I'd expect those numbers to begin shrinking over the last 15 home games.
15 home games. That's all that remains of this wretched season. And yet, we'll miss baseball when it's not here.