Sloppy Cubs left out in the cold in 6-3 loss to Brewers
Winter made a rude re-entry at Wrigley Field on Friday after a cameo appearance by summer earlier this week.
The Cubs couldn't cope, and they left themselves out in the cold during a 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The loss ended a mini three-game winning streak for the Cubs, who fell to 21-20. The surprising Brewers, the first-place team in the National League Central, improved to 25-18.
The Cubs made 3 errors -- all in the sixth inning with 2 by Kyle Schwarber on one play that helped turn a 4-3 game to 6-3. The game was delayed almost 2 hours in the top of the inning by a cold, driving rain.
On top of that, Cubs pitchers walked 10. Starting pitcher Eddie Butler walked five in 3-plus innings as he wound up throwing 92 pitches (only 46 strikes) in another short outing by a Cubs starter, a season-long trend that's taking a toll on the bullpen.
"Just couldn't get a good feel of the baseball," said Butler, who was touted as a strke-thrower when he came up last weekend in St. Louis. "Sprayed the fastball around, never was really able to establish it. Both teams are playing in it (the weather), so I need to find a way to get it done, and I couldn't do that today."
The game began with a temperature of 46 degrees and a north wind at 18 mph, making for a windchill of 37. For this past Tuesday night's opener against the Reds, it was 87 degrees.
There has not been a crispness to the Cubs' game in the early part of the season, and any hint of crispness wilted in the wet weather Friday.
Case in point was the sixth, when rookie reliever Pierce Johnson made his big-league debut for the Cubs. Eric Thames led off with a single, and as the rain intensified, Jonathan Villar lofted a high popup into short left field.
As the wind blew the ball back toward the infield, Schwarber ran in from left field to make the play ahead of shortstop Javier Baez. Schwarber dropped the ball as he came close to reaching the infield dirt. That was 1 error. He tried to flip the ball toward second base to get Villar and threw it away. After the rain delay, Domingo Santana drove the two runners home.
"That ball should never happen," manager Joe Maddon said of the Schwarber play. "That's why they pulled the tarp. The 2008 World Series, there was a fly popup hit to second base that they did not call the infield-fly rule for, meaning that it wasn't routine, meaning that we shouldn't have been playing in the first place. So when a play like that occurs, it also points in the direction of the conditions probably weren't baseball-esque.
"Don't blame Schwarber. Please don't blame Schwarber. Whatever you do, don't do that. That's very unjust. The wind and where that ball blew back to, he made a great attempt at it, actually. That's normally the shortstop's ball. But under the circumstances, it was up for grabs, basically."
Here was Baez's take: "I thought I had it the whole time. But after Schwarber dropped it, I was really far from where the ball landed. It was tough. As soon as he called me off, I got off. With the ball moving up there and him, obviously at full-speed forward, it was kind of hard to catch it."
Baez was involved in an offensive play that could have cost the Cubs some runs. They put together 4 straight singles to score twice in the fourth. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Baez popped out to the catcher trying to bunt. Butler struck out, and No. 9 hitter Jon Jay grounded out to end the inning.
Turns out Baez was bunting on his own, with the pitcher up after him.
"Actually, I thought about doing it with the bases loaded," he said. "I kept my same plan, but obviously, I kind of forgot about the pitcher, that he was going to hit behind me. I can't do anything about it. Just learn from it."