Three of a Kind: Reds Take Series Against Cubs

The Chicago Cubs entered the four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds looking to play spoiler. It’s a role they’ve been destined to perform since late May. What has been the Cubs’ problem (amongst many) is their inconsistency. It’s become too commonplace for them to lose two or three games in a row, only to have a random solid game mixed in.

Conversely, the Reds had been playing some of the best baseball in the majors before a mini-skid followed them into Wrigley Field. By the time the first game was over, their skid had reached five games.

Starlin Castro, whose inconsistencies at the plate have mirrored those of the entire team, came through on a rainy Thursday night. With the Cubs down by two, Castro doubled home the tying runs. This set the stage for Alfonso Soriano to reach a career milestone by hitting his 20th home run of the season. With that home run, it not only put the Cubs ahead by two, but it marked Soriano’s 11th consecutive season of 20 or more home runs. Carlos Marmol did amicable work in the 9th to earn the save. That’s with a leadoff single, fortunate double play, a walk and a force out to get through the inning.

Speaking of things that make you go crazy, the Cubs committed five errors on Friday. Perhaps the most aggravating part is they only lost by two runs (read: because five errors aren’t good). The gaffes in the field and on the base paths led to the Cubs dropping their ninth game in 10. Remember the game some years back, the Cubs’ infield positions all committed an error in one inning? The 3rd inning wasn’t as pitiful as that, but it was close. Anthony Rizzo couldn’t glove a ground ball to him, which was promptly followed by a two-run home run. With two outs in the inning, Josh Vitters and Castro combined for two consecutive errors to allow another run to score. Castro did his best impression of a croquet wicket allowing the ball to go between his legs.

It’s frustrating, especially since Castro’s defense has actually been improved this season. His play in the field had been a welcome distraction from his struggles at the plate lately. To cap off his tough day, he was thrown out at third after rounding second base late when Brandon Phillips faked having the ball. Once he realized the decoy and began to run, the relay easily gunned him down. Dale Sveum has said he would think about giving Castro a break from the starting lineup. Of the five errors, four were credited to rookies: Rizzo, Vitters, Brett Jackson and Wellington Castillo.

Losing on Saturday 4-2 is a bit of a heartbreaker. Travis Wood pitched well enough to get the win against his former club, but the bullpen was unable to raise the W flag. Wood pitched seven innings and only surrendered one run, leaving the game with a 2-1 lead. James Russell quickly gave up a double to Drew Stubbs, followed by a single from Phillips and Ryan Ludwick rapping a ball into left field that scored both. Insurance off a Wilson Valdez single after Chris Heisey stole third base was all Bronson Arroyo needed for the win. In his last seven starts at Wrigley Field, he’s 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA.

The Cubs had the (mis)fortune of running into Cy Young candidate Johhny Cueto in the series finale Sunday. Brooks Raley was equal to the task for the first 13 batters he faced. However, he served up two home runs and was pulled after giving up three runs in six innings. The Cubs were unable to get much going against Cueto – 3 hits – and unable to create any chances at scoring. Darwin Barney managed a single in the 9th off of Aroldis Chapman, followed by a pop out from Rizzo and Soriano strikeout. Castro came up hacking at the first pitch he saw and blasted it all the way to Phillips at second for the final out of the game.

If I sound unimpressed, it’s because I am. This series was a microcosm of all that is wrong with the Cubs: no timely hitting, poor defense, lax bullpen, sloppy on the bases. When poor baseball presents itself, I find myself thinking about a lot. Here are some things that went through my head during this series:

-Scott Rolen is still playing/alive?

-I wouldn’t get a hot dog at a game if it was raining.

-Wow, Scott Rolen IS alive.

-Soriano will hit a…excellent

-Castro has been playing better latel….dammit.

-I better not hear about “Raley Caps”.

-Damn you, Dusty Baker. Damn you.

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