Article first published as Cubs Series Recap: To Dusty, We Lose Two on Blogcritics.
The first of two huge series for the Chicago Cubs (15-18) came and went as the team dropped two of three to the Cincinnati Reds (19-16). There's still reason to hope for the team, and with the Chicago weather heating up a bit, so too will the bats, or so we hope.
How many men can you leave on base in a game? For the Cubs, the answer for the team combined would be 23. All the team needed was to drive home two of those and Matt Garza would have gotten his second win of the season. Instead, he notches his fourth loss of the season, as he gave up five runs in six innings. It's becoming rapidly apparent that he'll need to allow under four for any chance of a win this year, the way the offense has shown how clutch (or un-clutch) it will be this year.
Casey on the mound - Casey Coleman pitched six solid innings, scattering four hits and giving up two runs. Things didn't look that good with the only offense being Blake DeWitt's solo shot into the wind, giving the team a 1-0 in the seventh. That's when FOX showed a statistic of how the Cubs were 10-0 this season when entering the 7th with the lead, and 1-14 when trailing. Kerry Wood promptly gave up the lead, and some fans assumed that Coleman's strong outing would be wasted. And then another stat came - 0-16 when losing in the ninth. Not anymore. Carlos Pena, with a bunt single earlier in the game, became a hero of at least one game by tying it in the ninth with a solo shot. Jeff Baker's ground rule double (really? in Wrigley?), and Kosuke Fukudome's walk off single ended the game on a high note. As stated before (link), this team has a lot of heart, and for now remains undefeated when leading after 6 innings.
Making Johnny Cueto's mother would be proud - In his first start after four minor league starts, Cueto's return was strong as he lasted six innings while giving up only five hits. A shutout loss can only be salvaged by Ryan Dempster's earned run average dropping another point (down to 7.20!) and Carlos Pena's batting average approaching the Mendoza line (.198 after a 1-for-4 performance).
Keeping Score - Another series, another broken sounding record for this Blogger as the Cubs drop to three games below .500 for the season. They are now flirting with a more permanent departure from my predicted 85 wins, and will need a winning streak (they are one of five teams without a three game win streak) soon.
On Deck - And what better time for their first three game sweep? The NL Central Division leading and dearly beloved St. Louis Cardinals will be in town. We'll call this a "statement" series just to mix up the terminology. Regardless of what it's called, the Cubs need to make it known that they are going to be competing, and now's as good a time as any to prove just that.
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