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Cubs fall for 3rd game in row
The victims and culprits change from day to day.
But the results rarely do.
The Cubs are among the safest bets in the world to disappoint their loyal fans. The only mystery is in the details.
The Cubs' 5-4 loss to the Reds on Thursday was particularly tough. After another superb performance from Jon Lieber, the North Siders were one strike away from a 3-1 victory.
But Reggie Taylor tied the game with a two-out, two-run triple off closer Antonio Alfonseca on an 0-2 pitch.
"I don't think I want to see [the replay]," manager Don Baylor said. "I know where it was. It was way too good an 0-2 pitch."
Alfonseca's knee-high sinker caught much of the plate, and Taylor whacked it into right-center field to score Sean Casey and Adam Dunn.
The Reds won the game in the 10th when they scored twice off Kyle Farnsworth.
Farnsworth walked catcher Jason LaRue, a .229 hitter, to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt and flyout, Baylor intentionally walked Casey.
Then Farnsworth semi-intentionally walked Dunn to face Russell Branyan, who entered with a .182 average. Branyan ripped Farnsworth's first pitch to right to drive in two runs.
The Cubs rallied in the bottom of the inning with singles from Sammy Sosa, Fred McGriff and Todd Hundley. But with the tying run at third and the winning run at first, Alex Gonzalez popped out to shortstop to end the game.
It was another instance of the Cubs' inability to come through with a big hit.
"I wish I knew the remedy for it," Baylor said. "I wish I knew [our] approach [at the plate]."
The Cubs, who now have no momentum going into their weekend series against the White Sox at Comiskey Park, left 12 runners on base Tuesday in a 5-2 loss and 11 on base Wednesday in an 8-6 defeat. They stranded nine Thursday.
That's 32 runners, 15 more than the Reds left on in their three consecutive victories.
"Like I've always said, the pitcher should be on the defensive [with runners on base]," Baylor said, "but it seems like our hitters are on the defensive.
"Instead of letting the guy make a mistake, we swing at the first pitch a lot. When you swing at bad pitches, especially early in the count, that tells me guys don't want to strike out. Make him throw pitches."
Baylor spoke with Gonzalez earlier in the game about waiting for his pitch. In his game-ending at-bat, Gonzalez got jammed on Danny Graves' first pitch.
"I talked to him after [Joey] Hamilton threw him three straight sliders for balls [and he swung]," Baylor said. "It's tough enough to hit strikes but guys are swinging at balls."
Lieber made the Reds swing at everything. He hasn't walked a batter in 18 1/3 innings.
But Lieber didn't get a chance to complete Thursday's game after giving up two singles to start the ninth. Then he watched as Alfonseca gave away his victory.
"Individually is not what matters," Lieber said. "It's frustrating for all of us in here. We have to be able to put a team away."