The Cubs and Reds played extra-inning night games Monday and Tuesday, 23 innings' worth, for a combined game time of seven hours and 46 minutes. Then they had a game scheduled to start at 12:35 p.m. local time Wednesday, and rain delayed it an hour and a half, with temperatures dropping and maybe 5,000 people in Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati (announced as 16,288).
So you'd expect a low-scoring game, and that's exactly what we got: a 1-0 shutout win by the Reds over the Cubs, the only run coming on Todd Frazier's 480-foot home run off Jeff Samardzija, the seventh-longest homer in GABP history and the longest in the major leagues this year (five feet longer than the blast hit by Anthony Rizzo at Wrigley Field against the Rangers last Thursday).
Samardzija had proven his toughness by trying to snag a comebacker in the first inning; it went off the fingers of his pitching hand, drawing blood (apparently from under a fingernail) that he wiped off on his uniform pants (Bloody Pants, like Curt Schilling's Bloody Sock?). Shark tried it again later in the game. Someone needs to remind him that there are other fielders behind him and he can let them handle those, it won't get intercepted!
But despite some long counts, Shark finished six innings and gave up just the home run, lowering his ERA to 3.03. He struck out eight and produced the Cubs' 12th quality start in 20 games so far this year. Only three teams (Reds, Cardinals, Phillies) have more than that. Granted, the QS isn't the best statistic, but it does show that Cubs starting pitching has been the best thing about this team. If only they had timely hitting... or a good bullpen... or solid defense...
The Cubs had a shot in the top of the eighth, when Dioner Navarro walked. Travis Wood ran for him, and after a Luis Valbuena single and a sac bunt, there were runners on second and third with one out. Most teams can score at least one there, but these are the no-RISP-hitting Cubs. Alfonso Soriano, batting for Shawn Camp, struck out, and then David DeJesus hit a ball that looked like it would go up the middle for a hit. Zack Cozart made a nice stop and threw DeJesus out by half a step. Give Cozart credit for a fine play that saved at least one, maybe two, runs.
Such are the 2013 Cubs. Half a step short.
Aroldis Chapman came in for the save. Before Wednesday's game, Chapman had faced 37 batters and struck out 19 of them; he had allowed six baserunners (four hits and two walks). You didn't really expect the Cubs to do anything with a pitcher like that, did you? And they didn't, although he only struck out one of the four hitters he faced and Anthony Rizzo actually got a hit off him. Moral victory?
I say that because those are about the only victories the Cubs are getting these days. The Reds are a good team and the Cubs should have won two of three. They didn't. Once again, they played a close game -- the team is now 2-6 in one-run games. It could easily be the other way around. It's not.
The next eight games are against teams the Cubs should be able to defeat -- four in Miami against the Marlins, four at home against the Padres. Really, this Cubs team, flawed as it is, should be able to win six of those eight games, even with the sputtering offense they are putting on the field. Edwin Jackson faces Kevin Slowey in the Marlins series opener Thursday evening.