Okay, Andrew Cashner. We get it. You’re pretty decent now.
A day after saying he was going to “shove it up their *** tomorrow,” the tall right-hander came close to doing just that. There was just one problem with this plan. He needed his offense to score. They didn’t. Until the 13th inning.
Former Cubs shortstop Ronny Cedeno ripped a two-out triple over the head of Junior Lake in the bottom of the thirteenth, scoring Jesus Guzman, who doubled earlier in the inning off Cubs’ closer Kevin Gregg. With two outs and Alexi Amarista at the plate, Gregg let a wild pitch fly, and Cedeno raced home to tie the game, 2-2.
Two innings later, after wasting countless opportunities to re-take the lead, Chicago managed to drop the ballgame, when Nick Hundley singled to center, plating Logan Forsythe and sending the one thousand or so remaining fans home happy with a 3-2 San Diego victory.
Cubs’ left-hander Chris Rusin matched Cashner pitch-for-pitch in Sunday afternoon’s rubber match at Petco Park, keeping the game scoreless until Chicago scored in the thirteenth inning.
With the bases loaded, Nate Schierholtz grounded a ball to first base, and as he swung, he collapsed, clearly in pain. He then managed to get up, and while wincing, he began to jog down the first base line. San Diego first baseman Jesus Guzman charged, and threw towards home for the force out, but hit Schierholtz in the helmet, allowing all runners to reach and giving the Cubs a 1-0 advantage.
Earlier in the inning, Darnell McDonald led and Starlin Castro led off with back-to-back singles before Anthony Rizzo drew a four pitch walk to load the bases. It was at this point in time that the aforementioned bizarre play took place, giving Chicago the lead.
A sacrifice fly by Brian Bogusevic to deep center later in the frame tacked on a second run, and Chicago headed to the bottom of the 13th with a 2-0 lead over the Padres with a shot to take the season series.
Chicago didn’t manage to even advance a runner to third base until the top of the eleventh, when Nate Schierholtz hit a liner up the middle, advancing Castro to third, after he walked earlier in the frame. Bogusevic then lined a ball to the gap that was run down by San Diego outfielder Forsythe for the final out of the inning.
For the first six-plus innings, the game was dominated by Rusin and Cashner, who combined to throw 13-plus innings of shutout ball, keeping hitters off balance in very different ways. Cashner was clocked as high as 96 mph on his 106th pitch of the afternoon, while Rusin mixed speeds and relied on his offspeed pitches to keep the Padres off the board.
Neither pitched factored into the decision on Sunday, but the bullpens were equally impressive. Chicago relievers – Carlos Villanueva, Pedro Strop, Blake Parker, Michael Bowden, James Russell – combined for 6 2/3 scoreless innings of work, allowing just four scattered hits prior to the Cubs’ closer taking the mound.
Then, Kevin Gregg happened. He allowed a pair of extra base hits in the bottom of the 13th inning, a double and a triple, and, as mentioned, his wild pitch led to the tying run crossing the plate in the form of none other than Ronny Cedeno.
Rizzo and Castro added two hits apiece, but six different Cubs contributed at least a hit to the losing effort. The club continued to show a near-endless inability to hit with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-10 in such situations and leaving 13 men on base.
The Cubs begin a series with the Los Angeles Dodgers tomorrow at Dodger Stadium.