Remember those 26 one-run wins the Cubs eked out a year ago?
The baseball gods must be trying to even the score.
The Cubs lost another head-shaker Saturday when the Pirates completed a sensational double play to end the game. The final score of 3-2 should appear familiar by now. It was the Cubs' third 3-2 loss in their last four games.
"You break even on these kinds of games during the year," said pitcher Matt Clement, who can only hope so.
Clement, the 27-year-old right-hander who came to Chicago with a reputation for wildness, didn't walk a batter Saturday. And he struck out a career-high 12. But it wasn't enough.
"To lose with that kind of stuff is unfair," Cubs manager Don Baylor said. "We just can't put it together where we have good pitching and good hitting in the same day."
The Cubs collected only six hits, and not enough came at the right time.
"When a guy bunts right through a ball and you take a secondary lead, you're dead," Baylor said.
Although Gonzalez was batting .417, Baylor called for the sacrifice because Gonzalez is a proficient bunter--he led the American League with 16 sacrifice bunts in 2000--and he wanted to avoid a double play.
"If we're swinging the bats well, I probably let him swing there," Baylor said. "But we're scrambling for runs. Sure, he's hitting fifth, but if [Moises] Alou's there, I'm not bunting."
After missing the bunt Gonzalez lined a shot to deep left field that Brian Giles snared.
"It wasn't my day at the plate," Gonzalez said.
He got confirmation of that in the ninth.
After McGriff drove in Delino DeShields to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 3-2, Gonzalez sent a sharp grounder up the middle with one out and runners on the corners.
"I thought it was going through and then I see [the play] developing and I can't believe what's happening," Gonzalez said. "I was kind of shocked."
Shortstop Jack Wilson made the stop and flipped the ball to Pokey Reese with his glove. Reese turned and fired to first as Gonzalez lunged toward the bag with a headfirst slide.
"I was just trying to get every inch I could," he said.
But the Cubs came up an inch or two short again.
For Clement, a native of nearby Butler, Pa., who left 30 passes for friends and family members, it was little consolation that he had delivered just the third no-walk outing in 100 career starts.
"In the past I've come in here and pitched about two innings," he said. "At least I was able to let them enjoy watching me pitch for a good bit of the game. But a loss is a loss."