The mist never did stop at Wrigley Field Thursday afternoon, and thanks to BCB's own eths, who lives in Germany, I know what the translation of the word "mist" means in German. That translation accurately describes not only the weather, but the Cubs' play in a 7-6 loss to the Giants that took way, way, way, way, waaaaay too long. Don't these players want to spend less time out in the cold and wet, too?
The game started out positively for the Cubs, if stupefyingly slow. They pushed across a run in the second when Giants 2B Nick Noonan was charged with a throwing error after a fielder's choice, and four more in the third, highlighted by Anthony Rizzo's third home run of the season. 5-0 after three, including two runs driven in with Brent Lillibridge's first hit of 2013! All good, right?
Not so fast, said Scott Feldman and Starlin Castro. Castro let a playable ball go right under his glove in the fourth for what would have been the third out of the inning. Instead, the Giants followed with a run-scoring single by Angel Pagan. Then Feldman hit Brandon Crawford on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases and Pablo Sandoval doubled in two runs; the four runs off Feldman in the fourth were all unearned. He hadn't pitched really well, but neither was he that awful; if Castro doesn't make that error, maybe he hangs on long enough to qualify for a win and the Cubs win the game.
The fifth was worse, though, with singles interspersed with walks. It slogged on so long that one blended into another, and by the time the inning was over Hisanori Takahashi had added to the walk parade. Three runs scored, and that wound up being the runs the Giants needed to hang on. After Takahashi, the Cubs' bullpen did a very good job of keeping the game close; over the last four innings they allowed just one walk, no other baserunners. But the Cubs did pretty much the same until the eighth inning, when Alfonso Soriano's leadoff double and an infield hit by Nate Schierholtz put runners on first and third with nobody out.
It seems to be the Cubs' way these days. They scored a run -- on a double play. Only then did Luis Valbuena get the extra-base hit that would have tied the game. Had there been less heavy air, or even a bit of a breeze, the ball might have made the right-center field basket; it hit the base of the wall. Steve Clevenger got fooled on a curveball for strike three to end the inning.
In the ninth, David DeJesus lined a double down the right-field line with one out. Tying run on base, Castro and Rizzo up! Going to extra innings, right?
Well, no. Sergio Romo is a pretty good closer; he struck out Castro swinging and got Rizzo looking on an inside fastball to end it. Romo has now saved six of the Giants' seven wins this year.
It wasn't the weather that lost the game for the Cubs; it was bad defense and the inability to put hitters away. You can't expect to issue six walks to a good team like the Giants and win. Cubs pitchers are now tied with the Cardinals for the most issued among National League pitching staffs so far this year -- 36. That's four a game. That's not good. They've got to stop doing this, no matter whether this is a rebuilding year or not.
There have been baseball games played in more miserable conditions than Thursday's, but I daresay not many. Burt Hooton's no-hitter on April 16, 1972 was played in weather like today's (and I wasn't at that one). The difference now is that almost the entire remainder of the homestand is forecast to have weather like this, or not much better; Friday, in fact, we're looking at a chance of snow flurries.
I'll be talking more about attendance after this homestand is over, but Thursday's was one of the smallest in-house crowds I've seen at a game since the 1990s. It didn't look like more than about 6,000 in the house, with only a few hundred in the bleachers. A large group cleared out, heading to their buses, about 2:30, by which time the game was only in the third inning. And toward the end of the game I saw someone do one of the grossest things I've seen in the bleachers (and that's saying something). A couple of fans left the remains of the nachos in their nacho helmet. A few of the seagulls had their fill of nachos... and after that, a 20-something man started eating the rest. Ew! So if you hear of bird flu cases popping up... maybe that's where.
Finally, my thoughts on the Jorge Soler suspension, covered well elsewhere by Josh: I think Soler got off very lightly, considering what could have happened. This quote from Theo Epstein I think sums it up well:
"Jorge is tremendously remorseful about what happened and understands what he did was wrong," said Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "He didn't sleep last night -- was up all night thinking about it. He was very apologetic. He understands this can't happen again and understands there will be discipline associated with it."
It's good that Soler knows he did wrong, and I hope that he will learn from this experience and that it won't happen again. We know that Soler has tremendous talent, and I want him to channel all that ability and desire into playing baseball. Five games from now, he'll be back, and we can all continue watching his development.
At Wrigley Field Friday, Carlos Villanueva will face the Giants' Matt Cain. Whatever the result, I sure wouldn't mind if it took less time.