The Cubs lost 4-1 to the Reds Friday afternoon, their fifth consecutive defeat.
Positive things happened! I'm going to tell you about those.
First, the Cubs scored a run in the seventh inning. That ended a 24-inning scoreless streak; the last run scored by a Cub before Friday was in the ninth inning last Sunday in St. Louis. The unearned run, helped along by a Todd Frazier error, prevented the Cubs from being shut out three straight times for the first time since 1992.
Even more interesting was the top of that seventh inning. Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto and Ramon Santiago were the hitters against Jeff Samardzija, three straight lefthanded hitters. All three hit ground balls to Anthony Rizzo -- on the first two, Rizzo made nearly identical diving stops, really nice plays -- and Rizzo fed Samardzija on all three for the entire inning being 3-1 plays.
That, of course, tied two major-league records -- most assists by a first baseman in an inning, and most putouts by a pitcher in an inning.
This is rarer than you might think. This was the 14th time a pitcher had recorded three putouts in an inning, and the first time since 1999, when Darren Dreifort of the Dodgers did it, in the fourth inning of this game -- at Wrigley Field against the Cubs.
Three times before Friday, a Cubs pitcher accomplished this feat:
- April 25, 1975, Rick Reuschel, third inning against the Cardinals (one of them unassisted)
- July 22, 1986, Ed Lynch, first inning against the Padres
- May 23, 1990, Mike Harkey, fourth inning against the Dodgers
Three assists in an inning by a first baseman is a bit rarer -- 13 times, including Rizzo's feat Friday (one fewer than the number of pitcher-putout occurrences above, due to Reuschel's single unassisted putout noted). Five of the previous times were at Wrigley -- the four games mentioned above and one other (see below).
The first baseman for the occurrences at Wrigley were Andre Thornton (1975), Leon Durham (1986), Mark Grace (1990), Derrek Lee (June 2, 1998 with the Marlins) and another former Cub, Eric Karros (1999).
So there's that, a cool little piece of baseball history those of us who were in attendance Friday afternoon can count as part of our personal baseball experience.
All of that is to say that Samardzija threw a pretty good game; seven innings, six hits, just one earned run. The two runs scored in the Reds' sixth inning off him were unearned, thanks to a catcher-interference call on Welington Castillo. Those are scored as E-2 and thus, when the force play that Zack Cozart grounded into occurred later in that inning, the inning should have been over, no runs scoring. Instead, one run scored on that play and another when Emilio Bonifacio threw away the relay attempt.
So Shark put one more good notch on his pitching belt, increasing his trade value yet again.
Castillo had a bit of trouble throwing runners out. The Reds stole five bases; four of them almost could have been scored "defensive indifference," because even though the bases weren't stolen in a D.I. situation, no attempt at all was made to throw those runners out. Just once did all the stealing impact the score -- in the eighth, when a double-steal not defensed by Castillo put runners on second and third for the Reds. A run then scored on a wild pitch by Justin Grimm.
Despite the sunny weather, it was cold -- 38 degrees at game time with a stiff wind blowing in. That blew at least two baseballs hit by Cubs -- one by Starlin Castro for an out, the other by Castillo that did drop for a double -- back onto the field; both of those would have been home runs on most any other day. A little more than half the announced 28,699 showed up, but many of the seats in the shade started to empty out by the middle innings and by game's end, much of the remaining crowd in the lower deck was huddled in the stripe of sunshine down the right-field line.
The Cubs will try it again Saturday afternoon with Edwin Jackson facing Chicago-area native Tony Cingrani. It will be warmer, we're told.