This was going to be a nice little feel-good story about all the nice little things the Cubs did in beating the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday at Wrigley Field.
But not even the Superman of the moment, Emilio Bonificio, could save the Cubs from themselves as he grounded out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to end what turned into a 5-4 loss to the Pirates.
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Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium
TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus Friday; Comcast SportsNet Saturday; WGN Sunday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (0-1) vs. Joe Kelly (1-0) Friday at 7:15 p.m.; Carlos Villanueva (1-2) vs. Adam Wainwrighth (1-1) Saturday at 1:15 p.m.; Edwin Jackson (0-0) vs. Michael Wacha (1-0) Sunday at 1:15 p.m.
At a glance: The Cardinals had Thursday off after being shut out 4-0 by the Reds Wednesday. St. Louis is 5-4. The Cubs will face some tough pitching this weekend. Kelly sports a 1.69 ERA while Wainwright is at 1.29 and Wacha is at 0.71. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has 3 homers and 7 RBI. Matt Adams is 12-for-33 to start the season. The Cubs were 7-12 against the Cardinals last year, 3-7 at Busch Stadium. Samardzija is 4-3 lifetime against St. Louis with a 4.47 ERA. Molina is 9-for-17 vs. Samardzija.
Next: New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Tuesday-Wednesday
-- Bruce Miles
The Cubs took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning, but just like that, the Pirates put up a 5-spot, with right-handed reliever Brian Schlitter giving up a 2-run homer to pinch hitter Travis Snider and lefty James Russell suffering a blown save and loss by yielding a massive 3-run blast to center by Pedro Alvarez.
The late developments spoiled a nice pitching performance by Travis Wood and some early-inning hustle by the Cubs.
"There's no difference for me with this one," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria, whose team fell to 3-6 with its third straight series loss. "A loss is a loss."
This loss felt like so many among the 96 the Cubs suffered last year, and it exposed several possible problem areas for the team. Not only did the bullpen fail in the mid to late innings as it did last year in so many games, but the offense went from the fourth inning until the ninth without generating so much as a baserunner.
"It's baseball," said Wood, who has 2 quality starts and a 2.92 ERA. "Nothing is guaranteed in this game. Everybody's out trying to get us, and we're out trying to get them. That's just the way the cards fell today."
Asked if it felt like last year, Wood replied: "Not for me. Last year is behind us, in my opinion. That's just the way it's fallen right now."
The two teams combined for 7 home runs, 5 by the Pirates, in Wednesday night's 7-5 Cubs victory. The Cubs played a little small ball with Bonifacio early Thursday. He stole a base and was caught stealing in the first inning.
In the third, he reached on a two-out error by pitcher Gerrit Cole. Bonifacio then stole second and scored in one fell swoop as the throw by catcher Tony Sanchez sailed into center field. Bonifacio has 7 stolen bases for the season. He went hitless, but his average is .452.
"I just hustled," he said. "Those couple of innings are part of my game, and just keep going. I kind of anticipate that (the stolen-base scoring play) because the outfielders, most of time, give up."
Things got interesting, but not in a fun way for the Cubs late.
Wood took a pitch count of 104 into the seventh inning, and he gave up a leadoff double to Neil Walker. Schlitter came in and gave up the homer to Snider, and things pretty much disintegrated from there.
"Travis did a great job," Renteria said. "We sent him back out there. It was going to be a guy gets on and he's done."
Schlitter got two outs but gave up another hit and a walk, and Renteria went to Russell, his top left-handed reliever, to face Alvarez. The Cubs have another lefty in the pen, veteran Wesley Wright, signed ostensibly to take some of the load off Russell. Renteria said "Wesley is fine," but he has not used him since last Friday.
Alvarez, a left-handed hitter, crushed the first pitch from Russell over the shrubbery beyond the center-field wall.
"Just a slider that I hung and left down the middle of the plate," Russell said. "That's what he's supposed to do with it. More power to Alvarez for doing his job and taking my bad pitch deep.
"It's tough, especially as well as Woody pitched. You never want to mess up a good run that he had. It's one of those deals. That's why we play the game. It happens. We live to see another day."