It's an old saying, but bears repeating now: Even the best teams are going to lose a third of their games, and even the worst will win a third of theirs.
That's the takeaway for me from Sunday's 4-3, 10-inning Cubs loss to the Braves, their first extra-inning affair of 2016, one of that "third" that a good team like the Cubs will lose.
Give the Cubs credit. Julio Teheran had them flailing away for seven innings; through seven the Cubs managed just two singles, a walk and a hit batsman and had just two runners past first base, both in the first inning when Dexter Fowler led off with a single and went to second on a comebacker. One out later, Anthony Rizzo walked and he and Fowler executed a double steal, and if Ben Zobrist had come through we're probably talking about a different game here. But Zobrist was called out on strikes, and Teheran wasn't in trouble again.
Meanwhile, John Lackey was pretty much matching Teheran. He allowed just one baserunner, on a walk, through four innings. But a leadoff double, a groundout and a sacrifice fly gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the fifth.
The key inning was the sixth. A single, a walk and a sacrifice gave the Braves runners on second and third with one out. Freddie Freeman was intentionally walked, the right move in my view, and Adonis Garcia hit what could have been an inning-ending double-play ball to Addison Russell. Unfortunately, Russell booted it; a run scored, and a second run scored in the inning before a tag play ended it with the Braves ahead 3-0.
One of the best things about this year's Cubs team is that even when they seem utterly defeated, they come back. Matt Szczur laid down a terrific bunt for a pinch single in the eighth, advanced to third on a double by Dexter Fowler, and scored on a groundout. Kris Bryant singled in Fowler to make it 3-2.
Fowler got tagged hard as he slid into second on that double and had to be looked over by the training staff as he got up slowly, but in the end, he seemed fine for the rest of the game.
Travis Wood and Justin Grimm kept the Braves off the board in the ninth, and that put the Cubs to work again off ex-Cub Arodys Vizcaino. Zobrist worked a walk and took third when Vizcaino threw an attempted pickoff throw in the general direction of the Atlanta bullpen. One out later, Russell singled him in [VIDEO]. That was a real nice piece of hitting, inside-outing the ball into right field on an 0-2 pitch. Russell represented the winning run on base with one out, but Tim Federowicz flied to center and Jorge Soler, perhaps a bit impatient to be the game's hero, grounded to short on the first pitch he saw.
On to extras the game went, and Hector Rondon, who had been unscored-upon so far this year, gave up the eventual game-winner. A one-out single by Daniel Castro was followed by a single just out of the reach of Russell, who had run toward second on the pitch, as Castro was running. It was a nice piece of hit-and-run by the Braves. Nick Markakis hit a sacrifice fly to give the Braves the lead.
Even then, the Cubs got the potential tying run on base on a two-out walk to Bryant in the bottom of the 10th, but Anthony Rizzo flied deep to left to end it.
As I said, give the Cubs credit for coming back to tie this one. Lesser teams wouldn't have even been able to do that. Another good thing about this game: Lackey threw a very, very nice game, allowing just three hits and three walks and two earned runs. It was his best outing as a Cub. And as the headline says: you can't win 'em all. Good news for the Cubs: the Reds ended the Pirates' six-game winning streak Sunday afternoon, so the Cubs maintain their three-game lead over Pittsburgh in the N.L. Central.
A couple of odd notes about this game. You might have seen these guys, all dressed like the 1907 World Series Cubs:
I saw them in the bleachers. There were nine of them in all, a full team's worth. You can't really see this too well on the video, but they were all wearing makeup, white makeup on their faces and black around their eyes. I think they were trying for the "old-timey photo" look, but instead it made them look like zombie Cubs. It was ... weird.
Also, the Cubs won a replay review on this attempt by Smith to stretch a double into a triple in the eighth:
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez challenged that call and it ended up as "call stands," though it seemed pretty clear from the video shown on the Wrigley video boards that Tommy La Stella got his glove on Smith's arm just before Smith's hand touched third base. At the time the play seemed important; in the end it was just a nice defensive relay from Bryant to Russell to TLS.
Even though there were a fair number of no-shows from the announced total of tickets sold of 40,164, the crowd was loud and into the game as the Cubs rallied in the eighth and ninth, despite the November-style cold. I'm sure we'd all accept some of that kind of cold sometime about six months from now.
Cubs walk watch: three walks Sunday brought the season total to 124, an average of 5.39 per game. Pace: 873.
As I mentioned yesterday, the two rainouts on this homestand allowed the Cubs to set up their top three starters to go against the Pirates on a brief three-game road trip starting Monday night. Jason Hammel gets the call in the series opener against Gerrit Cole. Should be fun.