Bad luck had nothing to do with the Cubs' 10-3 defeat (Recap | Box Score) that put them on the cusp of elimination just two days into an October that promised so much more. Badly needing a victory over the Dodgers after dropping Game 1, the Cubs, allegedly the best team in the National League, played a memorably awful game. In fact, it was probably one of the worst games in their history. Which says a lot.
"I don't think you can win 97 ball games playing that way. It was not good baseball," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "In fact, the last two days, they've probably been the two worst games we've played all year from a walking and errors standpoint. It wasn't fun to watch.''
Piniella gets no argument from the blue-clad faithful, whose faith is being sorely tested yet again. The game deteriorated in a hurry, and all four Cubs infielders committed an error. If you're scoring at home: third baseman Aramis Ramirez, second baseman Mark DeRosa and first baseman Derrek Lee all committed fielding errors, while shortstop Ryan Theriot made a wild throw in the ninth inning to make it miscues around the horn.
Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley threw 6 2/3 solid innings, shortstop Rafael Furcal had three hits and Manny was Manny once again, basically producing an encore from his terrific Game 1. But when someone tried to suggest the Dodgers have improved from early this season, Piniella cut the fellow off. "Listen, you play the way we played, it doesn't matter who your opposition is,'' Piniella said. "You've got to improve that effort.''
If the Cubs aren't cursed, they certainly played like it.
"Guys were up there trying to do too much,'' DeRosa said. "It's not succumbing to the pressure ... it's just frustrating.''
Even the routine return throw from catcher to pitcher turned into a misadventure. Rookie of the Year shoo-in Geovany Soto once accidentally spiked the ball on his throw back to Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano and another time threw wildly past Zambrano. Both throws incited boos.
The patrons, who have seen it all, didn't know whether to laugh or cry. A couple times, they cheered sarcastically.
If anyone was as shell-shocked as Cubs fans, it had to be Zambrano, who was dropped to No. 2 in the rotation after some serious struggles but had almost nothing to do with this abomination. Actually, Big Z was treated as a figure of sympathy, and the fans even gave him a standing ovation on the way out, perhaps a first for a pitcher who marched off the mound down 6-zip.
Consecutive errors by second baseman DeRosa and Lee actually paved the way for the Dodgers' five-run second inning that effectively turned the Wrigley Field into a crime scene. DeRosa botched what appeared to be a certain double-play grounder that would have kept the game scoreless but instead preceded a game-changing rally.
"I put the horns on myself,'' DeRosa said.
The fans, who are still waiting for a World Series, instead turned into gawkers, watching for the next misstep. Every popup looked like a chore, every grounder a challenge.
The best team in the NL became an object of ridicule, pity and sympathy.
The biggest boos, though, went to Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome, who continued to receive misplaced faith from Piniella. Even Piniella's patience has worn out, though, as he responded to a postgame question about Fukudome by saying, "From now on, I don't want to hear about Fukudome anymore as far as whether he's going to play or not. I'm going to play [Mike] Fontenot or Reed Johnson or somebody else, and that's the end of the story. The kid is struggling. There's no sense sending him out there.''
Now the Chicago Strugglers head out to Hollywood to try to rewrite the script, to undo history and to overcome their first two dreadful games. From all appearances, they'd have more luck getting Tommy Lasorda to say he prefers Cubbie blue.
Piniella disagreed that they are nearing the end, saying, "Actually, we're sending a pretty good pitcher out there on the mound in Los Angeles on Saturday in [Rich] Harden, and we're sending a darned good pitcher out to the mound on Sunday in [Ted] Lilly.''
The Dodgers will continue to have their say, as well, and whether Piniella wants to address it or not, their lineup is rock solid with Manny Ramirez at its heart. Ramirez repeated his performance from Game 1, once again producing exactly one long home run, one rally-igniting walk and one single after a rough beginning (in Game 1 it was a double-play grounder in the first, in Game 2 it was strikeouts in each of the first two innings).
According to one teammate, the greatest lesson Manny has taught all the young Dodgers is not carry one bad at-bat over into the next at-bat.
As for the Cubs, they appear to be carrying one bad century over into the next.