I'm nearly speechless. Almost word-less. Really. I was all ready to write a happy recap to a four-game split of this series with the Giants, when Shawn Camp ruined all of that by giving up a two-strike, two-out, ninth-inning, game-tying home run to Hunter Pence.
Heard enough? I think I have, but you are entitled to a recap of the Cubs' 10-7, 10-inning loss to the Giants, and so you shall have one.
Let's start with the bad part. Camp had thrown three straight sliders to Pence and thus had one pitch to waste, if he had chosen to; instead, he threw another slider and Pence obviously knew it was coming. Camp could have chosen a changeup out of the zone; obviously, Camp's fastball isn't going to get by anyone. But up until then, he had thrown an efficient ninth inning, getting the first two outs with dispatch, including a nice ... out-of-the-zone pitch to get Pablo Sandoval for the second out.
Where to go from here in this rambling, four-hour mess of a game? How about asking Dale Sveum why he stuck with Camp in the 10th inning after it was clear that every hitter had figured him out? Sveum had Rafael Dolis warming up. If Dolis is going to be on this roster, Dale, use him! Instead, Camp gave up four hits in five batters, the last a double down the left-field line to Marco Scutaro that scored the final run of the game.
So now what, Dale? Who closes now? James Russell seems the obvious choice, but the Cubs have to get leads before that even happens.
They did have a couple of those Sunday afternoon, and props to Alberto Gonzalez, who is only on this roster because of the injury to Darwin Barney. Sunday, he had one of the better days of his career. Before Sunday, Gonzalez had three career home runs in 982 plate appearances. His fourth career homer, off former Cub Chad Gaudin, landed on the north side of Waveland just at the beginning of Kenmore Avenue, the longest home run hit by any Cub so far this season. Then Gonzalez followed with a sacrifice fly in a two-run Cubs eighth inning that gave them the 7-6 lead that they should have held, except for... well, you know. Gonzalez likely saved his spot on the roster with this performance; he's at least adequate as a backup infielder/defensive replacement, which is what he'll be after Barney returns Tuesday.
This all happened what seemed a long, long time after the Cubs had taken a 4-1 lead in the first inning thanks to a pair of two-run homers off Tim Lincecum, one by Starlin Castro, one by Nate Schierholtz. That could have held up, but Edwin Jackson, after breezing through innings two through five (following a two-out, nobody-on run allowed in the first), lost it in the sixth. In that inning, Cubs pitchers -- Jackson and Michael Bowden -- issued four walks and threw five wild pitches.
Five wild pitches in an inning. To give you an idea of how awful that is, there have been only two other Cubs games (since 1916, in the bb-ref database) where Cubs pitchers have even thrown five wild pitches combined in an entire game. (If you can stand it, have a look: August 21, 1990 at Cincinnati and April 29, 1974 at Houston.) Four Giants runs scored in the inning, and it might have been worse, except Bowden got Scutaro to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Been sitting here for about 10 minutes since I finished that last paragraph trying to think of something else to say about this mess of a game. Can't. Good teams find ways to win games, and the Giants are a good team. They showed it all weekend; their only real flaw was Sergio Romo's bad inning Friday, which led to the only Cubs win of the series. If not for that, the Giants and their thousands of orange-clad fans would have headed out of Wrigley Field with a sweep. Incidentally, speaking of those fans, they inflated the paid-attendance figures to what might be considered reasonable levels. If this weekend's opponent had been, say, the Padres or Rockies or another team whose fans don't travel as well, these crowds would have been much, much smaller.
The Cubs claimed Kameron Loe via waivers from the Mariners Sunday; the injured Steve Clevenger was placed on the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster. There's no indication (yet) that Loe will be placed on the 25-man roster, but he could hardly be worse than anyone else who's run through that bullpen so far this year. Loe was a decent middle reliever for the Brewers the past three years; he was bad in four outings for Seattle so far this year. The Cubs also signed ex-closer Kevin Gregg to a minor-league deal. He won't be assigned to a team yet; he'll head to extended spring training in Mesa. Will those transactions solve this problem? Probably not. Again, the Cubs have yet to be blown out of a game this year, and have shown signs that they can come from behind. It's what they do after they get leads back that's been the issue. I don't think there are any immediate answers. Sooner or later, I suppose even Carlos Marmol gets another shot at closing; he did throw an efficient 1-2-3 inning Sunday.
In the meantime, there might not be much immediate baseball at Wrigley Field this week. After a Sunday when the sun finally came out -- though the temperature didn't begin to warm up out of the 40s until the late innings -- the chances of rain for the Rangers series are 60 percent Tuesday night, 80 percent Wednesday night and 70 percent Thursday afternoon. With Texas only here once in an interleague matchup, they really have to do their best to get at least two of those games in.
Enjoy the off day. This beleaguered pitching staff needs one.