What if... Kris Bryant doesn't try for second base after his two-run single in the first inning? Would the Cubs have scored more runs?
What if... Addison Russell's throw to Starlin Castro with two out in the first inning had been just a bit faster? The inning would have been over with just one Giants run scoring, instead of two.
What if... Chris Denorfia pulls up and stops Brandon Belt's drive in front of him for a single, instead of having it go by him for a triple?
If any or all of those things had gone differently, perhaps the Cubs would have won Wednesday night's game. But they didn't, and so the six-game winning streak is now history after a 4-2 loss to the Giants.
It certainly started out in promising fashion, with new leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber hitting a popup about 30 feet in front of the plate that dropped untouched in between three Giants for a double. Eventually, the Cubs scored a pair of runs on Bryant's single and things looked good.
Things stopped looking good in the bottom of the first, when Kyle Hendricks' second pitch was launched out of AT&T Park for a leadoff homer by Nori Aoki. Then Hendricks got uncharacteristically wild and walked the bases loaded. Even through Hendricks' struggles, he's usually been able to find the strike zone, but not Wednesday night. With two out in the inning, he appeared to have gotten out of it with that ground ball to Russell, but Kelby Tomlinson beat Russell's throw to second and a second run scored.
Hendricks did settle down after that and faced the minimum through the next four innings. He allowed one single, but that was erased on a double play.
But the Cubs couldn't do anything else with Jake Peavy, who looked like the Peavy of several years ago. They managed just three hits after the first inning, and got just two runners past first base. Bryant doubled with two out in the fourth, but was stranded when Miguel Montero was called out on strikes. Schwarber singled leading off the sixth, advanced to second on a ground out, and stole third. (Yes, that's right, stole third.) He, too, was stranded. The only other Cubs hit was a seventh-inning single by Denorfia.
The Giants scored two runs after Denorfia's dive came up just short on Belt's hit. Two doubles followed, scoring the pair of runs and that, as they say, was that.
There isn't much more to say about this one. The Giants, after all, are a good team too. Winning all these games -- now 21 of the Cubs' last 25 -- has created somewhat of an expectation that the Cubs will win every day, and that's simply not possible. Sometimes even good teams like the Cubs get shut down by good pitching, and that's what happened Wednesday night.
The Cubs did get some positives out of this one. Dexter Fowler, who'd been banged up the last couple of days after being hit by a pitch in his hand Monday and fouling a ball off his leg Tuesday, got the day off. Travis Wood and Tommy Hunter threw the last two innings and allowed just one single, giving the rest of the bullpen a well-deserved night off.
The Cubs lost a game in the standings to the Pirates and Cardinals, both of whom won Wednesday night. They trail Pittsburgh by three games and St. Louis by 7½, and also had the Giants cut into their second wild-card lead, though San Francisco still trails the Cubs by 6½ games.
ICYMI, David Ross was placed on the Family Medical Emergency list before Wednesday's game, meaning he'll be away for at least three games but no more than seven. Matt Szczur was recalled (for the seventh different time this year!). This means, most likely, that Montero will have to catch several games in a row, as I don't think Joe Maddon is likely to move Schwarber back behind the plate. It means Montero will probably be catching Jon Lester Saturday in Los Angeles, although that would be the first day Ross would be eligible to return.
First, though, there's the business of trying to win this series. This will not be easy, as the pitching matchup appears, on paper at least, to be one of the bigger mismatches of the year: Dan Haren against Madison Bumgarner.
Maybe it'll go against form. That's why they play the games, after all. Remember that Thursday's game is an afternoon contest, beginning at 2:45 p.m. CT. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.