I really have only one major complaint about the Cubs' 5-3 loss to the Giants Saturday evening in San Francisco, and here it is.
You're in a scoreless game in the second inning, and you're Jon Lester, and you're struggling a bit with command, having already issued two walks and gone to a full count on a third hitter. There are two out and two runners on base.
The hitter is the opposing pitcher, Matt Cain. Cain used to be a good hitter -- through 2012 he had 10 doubles and six home runs in 457 at-bats. But in recent years he's been awful at the plate. From 2013 through his start previous to this one: 9-for-109 with 54 strikeouts, and he was in an 0-for-46 hitless streak.
So why wouldn't you attack a hitter like this? Maybe it was just Lester's command issues; he ran the count full on Cain and then got a fastball up and out over the plate, which Cain hit for a two-run double. Yikes. Cain hadn't had a hit in over two calendar years, since May 10, 2014, and his last extra-base hit was July 21, 2012.
Three more runs were scored off Lester in the next inning, two of them on a homer by Buster Posey, the guy who actually came to Lester's house in Georgia to try to get him to sign with the Giants in the 2014-15 offseason. Posey... well, all right. He's a really good hitter and by then, Lester wasn't going to last much longer in the game anyway, as he'd thrown 75 pitches to record eight outs. It was the shortest outing for Lester since he was also knocked out with two outs in the third inning August 19, 2015. It also snapped the Cubs' string of having their starter go at least five innings in every game this year.
The Cubs had gotten on the board before that three-run Giants rally with a solo homer by Kris Bryant, his ninth, cutting the lead to 2-1. But after the Giants extended the lead to 5-1, it was almost as if the Cubs hitters were rushing out of the ballpark to dinner reservations. They had several innings in which they went down meekly 1-2-3. Cain was dealing the way he used to before he spent the better part of the last three years injured. If he comes back to his previous level, the Giants will have a formidable pitching rotation all year.
Javier Baez hit an RBI single in the eighth to give the Cubs their second run, and Dexter Fowler homered off Giants closer Santiago Casilla to make the score closer than this one felt.
Give some credit to Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Justin Grimm and Travis Wood for shutting the Giants down after Lester's departure and saving the rest of the bullpen. The pen threw 5⅓ scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and two walks. These were good outings for some guys who had been somewhat shaky up to now, so at least this served as a confidence-builder for them.
The rest of the commentary I have about this one has to do with the Giants' uniforms and the Fox broadcast team. Have a look at Cain hitting his double:
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
That's... not readable unless you're up close like this photographer was, especially when the players were in shadow, which they were for a fair amount of this game. When Cain was on the mound, the back of his shirt looked just black, as if it had no number on it at all.
I mean... if you're going to have a black alternate jersey, which a lot of teams do, you've really got to have the numbers in a contrasting color. In the Giants' case, either orange, or maybe white with an orange outline. Black numbers with an orange outline on a black jersey = design fail. The Giants had spring-training jerseys like this a few years ago and even their own broadcasters complained about them, but it took several years for them to change to a more readable design.
The Fox broadcast team was awful, I thought. Matt Vasgersian completely missed one Anthony Rizzo play, when Rizzo fielded a ground ball with a runner on first, thought about throwing to second but didn't, and took the out at first. Vasgersian started talking about "getting the lead runner" before realizing his mistake and making fun of himself, which I guess is all right, except he'd have been better off just watching the play in the first place.
Then Eric Karros, who played a year for the Cubs, started talking about all the "varied starting times" at Wrigley Field, which most certainly was the case when he played there in 2003, but most definitely is not the case anymore, as Joe Maddon influenced the business side of Cubs management to have more consistent starting times (7:05 at night, 1:20 for day games, with only a couple of exceptions). If you're going to talk about things like this on national TV, at least get your facts straight.
Beyond that, the video shaders (the guys who adjust the light levels when the TV cameras move from bright light into shade at live events like this) seemed to be having trouble adjusting the levels on some of the shots early in the game.
Cubs walk watch: four in this game puts the Cubs over 200 for the season, at 203, or 4.95 per game. Pace: 802.
When it's not your day, it's not your day, and every team's going to have games like this, even good teams like the Cubs. It will not be easy to win this series, not with the Sunday night ESPN game starting pitchers being Madison Bumgarner and Kyle Hendricks. A win in the rubber game in this set with that matchup would really establish this team and pitching staff as dominant in the National League. I'm on my way to San Francisco right now and will be at the game tonight. The game preview will post at 5 p.m. CT.