With a temperature drop into the 40′s bringing wind in from center field at 19 miles per hour, the stage was set for a pitchers duel after the Tuesday and Wednesday evening games brought 28 total runs between the Cubs and Padres. Starters Travis Wood and Eric Stults lived up to that expectation, with both pitchers going six innings without giving up a run combined.
Wood had bested the Padres starter in the box score, however, as the Cubs lefty retired the first 14 hitters he faced before eventually giving up a single in the top of the fifth. During that same span, Stults had scattered four hits and two walks. That included escaping a runners on first and second no out situation in the bottom of the second.
The Cubs finally broke through against the Padres lefty after the seventh inning stretch. Welington Castillo led of the Cubs half with a single and was along for the ride on Scott Hairston’s two run homer. The Cubs right fielder hit a line drive into the left field bleachers under the wind currents for his third long ball of the season.
With the 2-0 lead and the way Wood was dealing, the Cubs were in position to take their second straight series victory. Even the defense was playing solid, with Starlin Castro flashing his range up the middle earlier in the game and first baseman Anthony Rizzo making two excellent foul territory catches in the top of the seventh.
But things quickly unraveled for the home team and their fans in the top of the eighth. Wood suddenly found himself in trouble after cruising all game long by allowing a lead off single and a walk. The lefty came right back to get the next two outs, including an excellent catch in the Padres bullpen by new Cub outfielder Julio Borbon.
From there the defense ironically let Wood and the Cubs down. Borbon went from making a great catch as mentioned earlier to just missing a blooper in shallow right, allowing the first Padres run to score. Replays showed that Borbon appeared to have called off Darwin Barney, with the second baseman appearing to be in better position to make the play. That knocked Wood out of the ballgame and gone were the aspirations of seeing two Cubs starters toss back to back complete games.
Castillo then allowed a passed ball and then compounded his mistake by not hustling after the loose ball. The Padres runner at third had hesitated, but made it home easily when he saw that the Cubs back stop had taken a mental break. James Russell replaced Shawn Camp and allowed a rare inherited runner to score, despite keeping his own 0.00 ERA streak going. The Padres picked up an insurance run on an infield single that cued off the end of Chase Headley’s bat and suddenly the North Siders were down 4-2 with Wood on the hook for the loss.
Nate Schierholtz doubled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of pinch hitter Luis Valbuena, but the Cubs third baseman struck out to end the game. Baseball can be a cruel game sometimes and this series finale was certainly one that the home team dominated only to suffer the loss from one bad inning. It was just one of those days where the little things did not go the Cubs way, although two of the plays involved a tough split second bad decision and a lack of hustle.
The Cubs will need to shake the tough loss off quick, as they welcome in the defending Central Division champion Reds for a series starting Friday afternoon.