The Cubs' 3-2 loss to the Reds Tuesday night in Cincinnati is a perfect example of how a baseball rule change almost got it right.
The game, already delayed twice briefly by rain earlier, was about to be delayed again by a heavy rainstorm that was bearing down on Cincinnati as the teams played in the bottom of the sixth inning. The score was tied 2-2.
If the rain had hit while the score was still tied, I suspect the umpires would have agreed to suspend it, something they can do with tie games that are subject to long rain delays. This would have been a much better idea than waiting over an hour and completing the game after 11 p.m. Eastern time in front of about 50 fans (pretty much all of whom you could hear making individual comments on the field mics).
But with two out, Zack Cozart tripled and Chris Heisey batted for Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon. Heisey smacked a single to left field to give the Reds the lead.
Thus when the rain finally did drench the field and force play to be stopped again, I think the umpires felt some sort of obligation to allow the game to continue -- since they are unable to suspend a game under these circumstances that isn't tied. And that's where I think MLB needs to adjust its thinking. Why can't any game that's delayed this long and this late into the evening be suspended? Why should only tie games be permitted to be suspended?
Something to think about, anyway.
Once again, Jeff Samardzija started a game that his team failed to win. I say "his team," because Len and JD went on and on about how Shark hasn't won. So what? Individual pitching "wins" are largely irrelevant in modern baseball, for well-known reasons. More important is the fact that the Cubs are 1-5 in Shark's starts, largely because of lack of run support. Shark's 1.98 ERA ranks 11th among all 106 qualified pitchers, but he ranks 138th of 149 starters in run support, just 2.2 runs per start. (For whatever individual "wins" are worth, in the ERA rankings, the next-ranked pitcher with 0 wins is Kyle Kendrick, who ranks 61st.)
So Shark's lack of wins are mostly not his fault. But his own personal record is less relevant than the team simply not scoring and winning when he starts.
Shark pitched well enough, but got himself in trouble with walks in the first inning, leading to a run, and then allowed Billy Hamilton's first major-league home run, a blast that was farther than you might think a skinny guy like Hamilton could hit the ball.
The Cubs scored their only two runs on a bases-loaded single by Starlin Castro in the third inning, which gave them a brief 2-1 lead. Emilio Bonifacio and Ryan Kalish had provided two of the baserunners with singles. Bonifacio has kept his batting average up; I had predicted regression to the mean but it hasn't happened yet with him. Bonifacio's still hitting .337 and has certainly been much more valuable than I thought he would.
The bullpen did a nice job keeping the game close; Zac Rosscup threw a nice inning, and Pedro Strop managed to get himself out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam that was partly created when Mike Olt failed to cover third base on a bunt attempt. But Strop got Hamilton to hit into a force play at the plate (nicely played by Castro) and Joey Votto then hit into an inning-ending double play. All that did, however, was preserve the one-run deficit that turned into another one-run loss, making the Cubs' record in one-run games 1-5 and, since this series has been abbreviated to two games, adding one more to the "no winning series" streak that's persisted since last September.
One more note about Rosscup. I like what I've seen from him so far and like how Rick(y) Renteria is using him, not as a LOOGY. I feel compelled to point out that Rosscup was a Jim Hendry acquisition, a throw-in in the deal where the Cubs acquired Matt Garza from the Rays in 2011. Looks like the team is still getting some value from that deal.
Speaking of Renteria, he got himself tossed right after the game resumed following the long sixth-inning delay for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Alan Porter. Porter had been squeezing Samardzija all game and maybe Renteria just wanted to get in out of the rain.
Tonight's Cincinnati weather forecast calls for no rain. Edwin Jackson will pitch against Tony Cingrani. You can decide whether the weather and pitching matchup is a good thing or not.