As usual, Cubs just good enough to lose
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Say what you will about these Cubs.
They never seem to give up, even when they're down in the ninth inning. We've seen that a few times already this season.
In the end, though, they fall short more times than not.
What is really says is they're just good enough to lose on most days.
That was the end result Friday on a cold and miserable day at Wrigley Field. Down 6-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth and facing Cincinnati Reds flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs managed 3 runs and fell 6-5, leaving the bases loaded.
"Those are some great at-bats today off obviously the best closer in the game," said manager Dale Sveum, whose team fell to 11-18. "There's a lot of adjustments with velocity. Hopefully, we can learn from that too, instead of waiting until a guy throws 98 (mph), when you can make those adjustments when guys are throwing 94, as well. Those are some really, really good at-bats."
The Cubs batted around in the ninth, with pinch hitter Scott Hairston walking with the bases loaded and Welington Castillo driving 2 home with a single. Chapman exited after pinch hitter Cody Ransom walked.
J.J. Hoover came in and got the save by striking out Darwin Barney to end the game. Barney's 0-for-5 day included hitting into 2 double plays. The Cubs had four pinch hitters reach base against Chapman in the ninth.
"Be patient," said shortstop Starlin Castro when asked about the key to the ninth. "He throws hard, but when you went to home plate, he didn't throw three fastballs down the middle. He threw a lot of balls. You can be patient with him."
The Cubs had one of their more dependable starters on the mound, but he just as he did at Miami in his previous start, Carlos Villanueva couldn't quite turn in a quality start as he lasted 5 innings and gave up 7 hits and 4 runs. The Reds chased him with 2 runs in the sixth.
"You say it's a game of inches," said Villanueva, who fell to 1-2 with a 2.85 ERA. "It's one pitch away. In my last 2 starts, I'm one pitch away from having two quality outings. The good part is I'm close to where I want to be. I'm just not putting that guy away when I need to out there. It's a big moment of the game. Early in the game, you can get away with it a little bit because you've still got some outs to work with."
Otherwise, it was much of the same-old, same-old for the Cubs. They wound up 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position, but they stranded 12 runners. Alfonso Soriano came up with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and ninth innings and could not drive home a run.
"We didn't do much in the first eight innings again," Sveum said. "We left some guys out there again, and they (the Reds) obviously added on a couple there. They added on without a hit (in the seventh). Those are the things that come back and haunt you at the end of a game."
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