The first four innings of the Cubs' 6-2 loss to the Dodgers Friday afternoon took two hours to complete.
I mean, that's ridiculous. It was so bad that I was literally almost falling asleep in my seat. Travis Wood was having so much trouble throwing strikes that he walked four straight Dodgers in the third inning and stayed in the game, probably because Dale Sveum couldn't believe that it took Wood 96 pitches to record 10 outs. Wood was finally lifted in the fourth after he gave up three hits. All told, Cubs pitchers threw 173 pitches Friday afternoon, though it got better after the fourth inning; Eduardo Sanchez (yes! he exists!), James Russell, Blake Parker and Pedro Strop retired the last 12 Dodgers, so the final five innings took less than an hour and a half. (Think about that. A "faster" pace would still have resulted in nearly a three-hour game.)
By the time it ended, the only real amusement was to watch Carlos Marmol make his first Wrigley Field appearance wearing a visitor's uniform. The Cubs might have actually scored a run off him, but Julio Borbon foolishly took off for third on a pitch that didn't get too far away from catcher A.J. Ellis. Borbon, who had doubled down the right-field line leading off the inning, was thrown out easily. Marmol walked David DeJesus, and that got Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen up and throwing in the bullpen, but Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo made meek outs to end it.
Even after Wood had gotten out of the third inning trailing just 3-1, it felt like a much bigger deficit, one the Cubs would never get out of. Lake, for his part, had four hits but scored neither of the two runs; the Cubs RBI were posted by Cole Gillespie (three hits) and Darwin Barney (two), and I think you can see that's a problem. The middle of the Cubs' order went 2-for-13 Friday, the Cubs left 10 men on base, and the team went 3-for-14 with RISP. That alone tells you they're failing miserably, because just to have that many opportunities with RISP, if you're a good team, you take advantage of them. The Cubs' best chance came in the sixth, when they loaded the bases with one out after an infield dribbler by Luis Valbuena went unfielded. Unfortunately, DeJesus offered at the first pitch by J.P. Howell and hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Dodgers are a good team, and they did take advantage of RISP situations (3-for-9), though they had a lot of help from Wood with his lack of command. That was really uncharacteristic of Wood, too; he had entered Friday's game with just 44 walks in 135⅓ innings and the seventh-best WHIP (1.071) in the National League. That ranking will fall, of course, after the loss Friday.
The languid day produced a languid crowd which really didn't get into anything until Marmol entered to begin the ninth inning. Booing resulted, but even that felt half-hearted (I did not participate); a better reaction might have been cheering, because with Marmol's poor performance so far this year, perhaps the Cubs could have taken advantage and scored some runs. As it turned out, they didn't, and Marmol had his first scoreless appearance as a Dodger. Somehow, it figures, it would be against the Cubs. (Also, one of Marmol's pitches clocked at 96 on the Wrigley speed meter -- when's the last time you saw him throw 96 as a Cub?)
There was a bit of other excitement, and I use the word advisedly, when Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis was called out on strikes in the fourth inning. He flung his bat away disgustedly, then must have said something to plate umpire Alan Porter as he threw his helmet -- in the opposite direction from Porter -- because he was then ejected. The usual manager-trying-to-keep-his-player-from-being-suspended act ensued, with Don Mattingly coming out of the dugout and also being ejected, though at one point it looked like Porter chased after Mattingly and bumped him, rather than the manager doing that. In my view, there are too many aggressive umpires like that in baseball today; they're supposed to be calming down scenes like this, not creating them.
The Dodgers are a good team, no doubt about it. The Cubs helped them out considerably Friday afternoon. Perhaps Saturday will be different; Jeff Samardzija gets the call against L.A.'s Chris Capuano. And perhaps they can pick up the pace a little, too.