CHICAGO -- One step forward and one step back. That’s the Chicago Cubs of 2013.
On the verge of winning their second straight series, the Cubs gave away a game to the San Diego Padres on Thursday letting a 2-0 lead turn into a 4-2 loss. San Diego scored all four runs in the eighth. Relief pitching, shoddy defense and a lack of timely hitting contributed to the Cubs' 17th defeat of the season.
“I want to apologize to my teammates for doing that,” catcher Welington Castillo said after not hustling on a passed ball. “That’s not going to happen anymore. I feel like I lost the game.”
Castillo thought Kyle Blanks was going to walk home easily with the tying run as the catcher couldn’t handle a pitch from Shawn Camp but Blanks hesitated -- and so did Castillo in tracking down the ball.
“I talked to him,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He took it for granted he was going to walk home and he obviously he didn’t go after the ball.”
Castillo added: “I have to learn from that because next time that’s not going to happen.”
That was just one of several mistakes. The Padres are never in a position to tie the game if not for a dropped pop up in shallow right field with the wind howling in towards home plate. Newcomer Julio Borbon called off Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney at the last second as the Cubs were still leading 2-0 with two outs in that fateful eighth inning.
“I started calling him off and according to what he said he didn’t really see it until the last minute and he wasn’t able to get out of the way early enough,” Borbon said. “It’s a ball I should have caught. The conditions and getting used to it. That extra second of him recognizing it and calling me off or getting out of the way.”
So the defense let them down twice in that inning and relievers Shawn Camp and James Russell didn’t help matters. Camp was the victim of the passed ball and he also walked a batter while Russell gave up two hits with men on base.
“It was a shame we had two defensive plays that were the difference in the ballgame,” Sveum said. “It was unfortunate, it was a really, really well played game other than a pop up that caused it. Still, we had a chance to make a pitch and get out of all that and we couldn’t do it again. When we make a mistake we’re not able to make the pitch to get out of it.”
Cue Sveum’s postgame remarks from much of the first month, but the Cubs had been starting to turn things around. Defense and relief pitching have been better.
In that eighth inning -- before the misplayed pop up -- Borbon made a running catch against the wall as he went down near the bullpen. And Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro made great plays as well. The Cubs are playing just well enough to lose a lot of games by a small margin, this was their 10th loss by two runs or less.
And then there’s the missed chances on offense earlier in the game.
“Those things come back to haunt you,” Sveum said. “They go unnoticed at the end of the game. Other things will be magnified.”
Though Scott Hairston homered in the seventh inning, he failed to get a run home with men on second and third and one out in the second inning and Alfonso Soriano hit into a double play with two men on in the third. The Cubs went 0-for-6 with men in scoring position, dropping their league-worst average to .167 in that category.
A chance to go 12-16 and take three of four from the Padres after three of four wins from the Miami Marlins fell through their hands because of issues that have plagued the Cubs most of the season in defeats. They don’t get beat often, they beat themselves.
One step forward, one step back. At least it’s not two back, right?
Pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa threw a bullpen session at Wrigley Field on Thursday. He’ll head out on a minor league assignment on Sunday as he rehabs from a right forearm strain.
Quotable: “I don’t know how that happened to me because I’m not that kind of person.” -- Castillo, on not hustling on a passed ball as a runner hesitated from third base.