In honor of the Cubs' 1960s throwback weekend, the headline to the recap of the Cubs' 10-7 loss to the Braves is one of Jack Brickhouse's favorite on-air phrases, used when the team needed to dig itself out of a deep game deficit. They'd often score a lot of runs, only to fall a bit shy of coming all the way back.
That's pretty much what happened Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field on perhaps the most beautiful weather day of summer 2014.
Travis Wood... man, I have no idea what's happened to Travis Wood. He got pounded around the yard in the second and third innings, capped by a three-run homer by Chris Johnson, who was a one-man wrecking crew in this series. Johnson, who signed a long-term deal with the Braves a couple of years ago, had a decent 2013 but before this series was hitting .273/.296/.352 with three home runs in 344 at-bats this year.
In this series Johnson went 5-for-13 with three home runs -- and that includes an 0-for-4 Friday. Overall this year against the Cubs Johnson went 12-for-24 with the three homers. He's got to be sad that he can't face Cubs pitching again this year.
Wood did settle down and managed to complete six innings. But he's going to have to adjust his game if he's going to be a long-term piece for the Cubs. He does seem to at least have a better approach than Edwin Jackson; after getting pounded for two straight innings, Wood retired 11 of the last 13 hitters he faced. And there was no real need to "save the bullpen," since everyone has four days off. It looked like Rick Renteria left Wood out there to work through it and he did so.
In fairness to Wood, some of the hits he gave up in the second inning in particular were ground balls that just barely got through, including a two-run double by Gerald Laird just out of the reach of a diving Luis Valbuena at third base.
Meanwhile, the Cubs did attempt to mount a comeback from the 7-0 deficit against Julio Teheran (incidentally, in attempting to name other major leaguers whose last names are the same as foreign capitals, we came up with Alex Madrid, Kelly Paris and, of course, former Cub Miguel Cairo -- can you think of any others?). In the sixth, Arismendy Alcantara launched the first of what we hope will be many big-league home runs into the right-field party patio. Chris Coghlan's two-run shot in the seventh would have really helped, if Zac Rosscup hadn't been touched up for three innings in the seventh. So instead of Coghlan's blast making it 7-4, it made the score 10-4 and the three-run rally in the eighth only closed the deficit to three.
That might have been a bigger inning if Starlin Castro hadn't made an ill-considered dash to the plate on a ball that didn't get far away from Laird, who threw him out at the plate. Renteria asked for a review, and it came back "call confirmed." Right after that, John Baker hit a two-run double which likely would have been a three-run double and only one man would have been out in the inning instead of two.
Interestingly, the Braves nearly scored another run in the ninth. Had they done so, it's possible that the Cubs would have faced someone other than Craig Kimbrel (29th save) in the bottom of the inning. Kimbrel retired the Cubs 1-2-3; maybe they'd have been able to hit someone else.
So give the Cubs credit for fighting back. And for those of you who say I complain too much about the length of games, it's more the pace of games that drives me nuts. This game, which ran three hours, 18 minutes, had a lot of action and scoring and never dragged. Games like this that run long, I don't mind at all. It's the draggy 3:45 nine-inning games with a dozen walks and a half-dozen mid-inning pitching changes that wind up 5-3 that are awful to sit through.
A few words about the throwback uniforms, which are the first ones that are from within my own lifetime as a fan. They got the 1969 look down perfectly, including the slightly off-white shade of the uniforms (though I think Justin Ruggiano might have been wearing his regular pants instead of the cream-colored pants and high socks that everyone else was wearing).
Just for fun I looked up who had matching uniform numbers from this year's team and the 1969 team. There are, of course, four 1969 numbers retired and because of Yosh Kawano's numbering scheme in that era (catchers in single digits, infielders in the 10s, outfielders in the 20s, pitchers 30s and 40s and no one above 50), there are 17 players on the current 25-man roster who had a player with a matching number in 1969. Those who don't: Castro (13 wasn't issued between 1966 and and 1993), Valbuena, James Russell, Anthony Rizzo (44 wasn't issued between 1954 and 1971), and all the pitchers wearing numbers above 50.
Just a curiosity for those of us who lived through that era.
Returning to the current team, I think we'd all like Alcantara to stick around, and he's certainly performed well in all five of the games in which he's played. However, I heard today that the team would like to try to get some trade value out of Emilio Bonifacio, who is currently on rehab assignment. It's possible that Bonifacio could return after the break; if he shows he's healthy and plays reasonably well, he could be traded and then Alcantara would return for the rest of the year. That actually makes some sense. Or, maybe the brass will just keep Alcantara around along with Bonifacio for a few days, as the Cubs don't need more than three starting pitchers until they return home July 22 to face the Padres.
Now we've reached the All-Star break, a pause for both players and fans in midsummer. Stick around BCB during the break, as we'll be here with all kinds of baseball things, including threads for the Home Run Derby and All-Star game.