Cubs prove it's the little things that hurt
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Cubs third baseman Brent Lillibridge nabs a popup hit by the Giants' Brandon Belt in the sixth inning Saturday at Wrigley Field.
With the kind of team the Cubs have, there is little margin for error -- let alone errors.
The Cubs were untidy in just enough areas Saturday that the margin for error turned into a margin of terror during a 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
There was a missed cutoff man, a late throw to second base on a sacrifice bunt and another walk to an opposing pitcher. If not all these no-nos figured into the scoring, and some did, they certainly don't help.
Neither does failing to put the ball into play when runners are in scoring position.
"Major-league players need to make those plays," said manager Dale Sveum, whose Cubs fell to 4-7. "That's the bottom line."
The Giants pinged across single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. The messy one was the seventh, when No. 8 hitter Brandon Crawford led off with a walk. Pitcher Madison Bumgarner bunted toward first base. Anthony Rizzo threw to second but not in time to get Crawford.
The Cubs did get an out when pitcher Michael Bowden rifled the ball to third to force Crawford on Gregor Blanco's bunt. But Marco Scutaro singled into right. Scott Hairston, who had an assist earlier, overshot the cutoff men and Bumgarner was able to score easily.
"We threw a ball over the cutoff man's head when a guy was going to be out easy," Sveum said. "That had nothing to do with taking anything for granted. We threw a ball completely over two cutoff men's heads and not even in the ZIP code."
Hairston said he didn't think the Cubs were that far away from tightening things up.
"I think it's minor; I don't think it's really major right now," he said. "There are plays we surely could have done better, but there is so much action throughout the game that we make a couple mistakes and all the good things we do are easily forgotten.
"We're playing in close games. Yesterday was a close game. Today was a close game. The Giants are a really good team. We're a good team, too. Yeah, we'll just keep battling and hopefully come out on top tomorrow."
The Cubs got back in the game with a pinch 2-run homer by Dioner Navarro, his second pinch homer in two days, in the bottom of the seventh. But Welington Castillo grounded into an inning-ending double play on a first pitch to end the eighth.
Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 2.75 ERA) was outdueled by lefty Bumgarner (3-0, 1.77). Although he didn't have his best stuff and ran his pitch count up early, Samardzija managed to last 6 innings, giving up 7 hits and 2 runs.
"I thought I fell behind some hitters I didn't need to," he said. "My fastball command was just OK. The splitter was OK. You play a team like that, you've got to get ahead in the count. They work the count and make you throw a lot of pitches. They stay short, and they got a game plan."
In keeping with the theme of the day, Samardzija blamed himself for walking Bumgarner in the third. The Giants didn't score, but Samardzija threw 25 pitches that inning.
"Absolutely," Samardzija said. "That's two games in a row, and it's unacceptable as a pitcher. That's on me. It's wasting pitches. It's wasting an out. In turn, it's making me work a little harder. You're out of the game in the sixth inning instead of the seventh or eighth. We'll address it in our bullpens and in our sides and from there. But that can't happen again."
• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112, and check out his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.
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