Summer made a cameo appearance at Wrigley Field on Monday night. It was the kind of evening Chicagoans dreamed about while shoveling their front porches only one week earlier.
Mark Prior was on the mound, a strong wind was blowing out toward center, and an unusually large walk-up crowd of more than 6,500 swelled attendance to 37,528 under perfect conditions for Wrigley's first night game of the season.
But the Cubs were anything but perfect, beating themselves with sloppy defense and questionable baserunning in an 11-3 loss to Cincinnati.
"Quite honestly, we kind of looked like the Cubs of last year," manager Dusty Baker said. "Hopefully that doesn't come back often."
Prior and reliever Juan Cruz committed throwing errors leading to three unearned runs, a recurring theme for Cubs pitchers in April, no matter what the temperature. They've already made five throwing errors, including two apiece by Prior and Shawn Estes.
Prior (2-1) allowed only five hits in six innings, but his lollipop throw to first in the fifth opened the door for two unearned runs, increasing the Reds' lead to 4-1.
"If I don't throw that ball away, we've got two outs and the pitcher coming up," Prior said.
After the Cubs crept within 5-3, Cruz threw a Felipe Lopez sacrifice into right field to allow another unearned run to score, then completely fell apart in a four-run inning. The Cubs have given up 15 unearned runs in 13 games.
After breezing through the first inning, Prior got into trouble by walking Adam Dunn with one out in the second. Mark Bellhorn failed to backhand Jason LaRue's smash, letting it glance off his glove toward the Cubs' bullpen, where a fan picked it up for a ground-rule double.
Dunn scored on Prior's wild pitch to snap his 14-inning scoreless streak, and Reggie Taylor brought home LaRue with a drag bunt to make it 2-0.
Back-to-back singles by Eric Karros and Bellhorn got the Cubs' offense moving in the second, but Karros was easily doubled off second on Corey Patterson's sinking liner to left, adding to the growing list of mental mistakes by Cubs baserunners.
"It was one of those days where anything that could go wrong did go wrong," Prior said.
Trailing 5-1 in the sixth against Jimmy Anderson (1-1), Moises Alou and Bellhorn drove in runs and the Cubs had runners on second and third with no outs. But they failed to drive them in, and Cruz opened the floodgates in the seventh to put the game out of reach. The Cubs mustered up only one infield hit in the final four innings against three Reds relievers.
The Cubs have scored only 23 runs in their first seven home games, and Damian Miller has hit their only two home runs at Wrigley.
"It's still springtime, and I know in my heart this is a hot-weather, summertime team," Baker said. "I'm not concerned, especially when we've won three of four series, and we still have a chance to win this series. If you're waiting on a 15-game winning streak, you'll be waiting until 2020."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times