MILWAUKEE -- Same story, different day. That is an apt summation of the Chicago Cubs' 2011 season.
After nearly every loss this season, someone in the Cubs’ clubhouse has either pointed to a lack of pitching or subpar defense as leading to the team’s ultimate demise. After committing four errors on Thursday against the Braves, the Cubs’ defense bit them once again on Friday. Darwin Barney made two errors that led to three runs (two unearned) in a decisive fifth inning in a 5-2 win for the Milwaukee Brewers.
“You don’t win championships without pitching and defense, there’s no doubt about that,” Barney said. “That’s one of those things where we’re gonna get better, we’re gonna be more fundamentally sound. As our defense gets better, our pitching will get better because we’ll pick them up. That’s just the way things work. There’s a lot of room for improvement, that’s for sure. We’re gonna work really hard at cleaning that stuff up.”
Corey Hart started the fifth with a single up the middle and Nyjer Morgan attempted to bunt him over to second. With Barney covering first base, pitcher Rodrigo Lopez fielded the bunt and his throw seemed to pull Barney off the bag. Barney attempted to put his foot back on the base, but Morgan was already ruled safe.
Barney compounded that mistake by making another error on the following play. After Ryan Braun's double to right field drove in Hart, Barney attempted to catch Morgan napping as Morgan aggressively rounded third. Barney’s throw went over Aramis Ramirez's head and out of play, allowing both Morgan and Braun to score.
“Caught some bad luck on Morgan’s bunt, I thought we had him,” manager Mike Quade said. “I think Barn had him and went back to make sure. That’s usually tough on an umpire to take a look at. That would have helped minimize the damage for sure. And then an errant relay throw, just trying to do too much.”
Both Quade and Lopez said that the bunt play changed the inning and the game in the Brewers’ favor. After the game, Lopez showed a group of reporters the play in slow motion numerous times, insisting that Barney’s foot was initially on the bag when he caught the ball and then came off after he’d made the out.
Barney agreed with Quade that it was likely that he tried to retouch the bag that caused the umpire to call Morgan safe.
“Whether you’re on (the bag) or not, when the play’s moving quick, sometimes the umpire takes information from all different places,” Barney said. “(The umpire’s) not in the wrong at all, it’s just baseball. That’s how the plays have been called for a long time. It’s my mistake for going back at it, either way I should have played it off or something. The second one was bad judgment, I saw Nyjer doing his thing over there and I thought I could make something happen. Unfortunately I couldn’t and I put us in a hole.”
Barney’s poor defense overshadowed a solid outing from Lopez who went six innings and gave up only two earned runs on five hits while striking out five.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job done there behind (Lopez), didn’t help him out,” Barney said. “Along with me he has to wear that too. I thought he pitched a great game. That’s one of the best offensive clubs that’s out there right now.”