When Theo Epstein and Company said this past off season that the Cubs would be competitive in 2013, maybe this is what he meant. On a cold and overcast day at Wrigley Field, the North Siders gave the defending champion Giants all they could handle all game long. Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija battled San Fran lefty Madison Bumgarner through six innings despite not being at the top of his game. The Shark was unable to blow hitters away like he did in Atlanta one start ago, but he was able to grind out a solid effort, only allowing two runs on seven hits.
Unfortunately for the Cubs starter, his offense could not crack Bumgarner early in the game. The biggest regret came in the bottom of the second with runners on second and third no outs, only for Welington Castillo and Brent Lillibridge to strike out in front of Samardzija’s ninth spot in the order. This was after Alfonso Soriano singled and Scott Hairston got hit by a pitch, with both being accomplices on a double steal during Castillo’s at bat.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, an unlikely duo got the Cubs right back in the game. Light hitting Alberto Gonzalez punched a single to right and was along for the ride on Dioner Navarro’s pinch hit homer to left center. The back up catcher, of course, was one of the heroes yesterday, providing a pinch hit long ball to tie the game. This one came from the right side of the plate and the rotund catcher now has two career pinch hit home runs in back to back games after going nine seasons in his career without a pinch hit bomb.
Infield cornerstones Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo set the table in the bottom of the eight with a single and walk respectively, but Castillo grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end that threat. There would be no repeat of ninth inning heroics from the Cubs this afternoon and the home team fell to the World Series champs 3-2.
The kicker is that the winning run came in the form of pitcher Bumgarner, who should have been thrown out at home had right fielder Hairston made just an accurate throw to home. Instead his wild throw ended up behind the mound to shortstop Castro with no play to be made.
The Cubs now face the task of evening up the series Sunday against Tim Lincecum.