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Mental, physical errors bedevil Cubs
In the middle of the sixth inning at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, a cat went streaking from near the Blue Jays first-base dugout and past the Cubs dugout before it leaped into the stands near the Cubs bullpen.
A repeat of that infamous day of Sept. 9, 1969, in Shea Stadium, when a black cat ran past Ron Santo in the on-deck circle and a day later the Cubs were out of first place for good? A new sign of bad luck?
"Not to me, because he wasn't all black," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "So it doesn't mean nothing.
"Where did he come from? Does he live here? Did someone let him go or what?"
Right now, it's a mystery, although there is a cat that has been living in Wrigley Field.
Of course, this couldn't be as sinister as 1969 because these Cubs aren't even in first place, except in the wild-card race.
But the results weren't good, before or after the cat's appearance. The Cubs lost their second straight to Toronto, 6-4, committing a pair of costly errors and at least one mental miscue that left 39,159 fans bemoaning their fate or booing their team.
The Cubs fell to 1-4 in interleague play with Boston, the Yankees and White Sox still to come in a stretch that also includes Florida and Milwaukee.
"We have some very tough series," Baker said. "We could put ourselves in pretty good position or we could be in more of a catch-up position."
They will be playing catch-up if they don't play better than Tuesday night.
The Blue Jays won with two eighth-inning runs off reliever Todd Wellemeyer (1-1), although one of them scored when fellow reliever Will Ohman failed to cover first base on a grounder to first.
Toronto scored another in the ninth on shortstop Neifi Perez's bad-hop throw to first.
"We have to play better defense," Baker said.
More offense might help too.
Although the Cubs had nine hits in the first seven innings, they stranded nine runners.
"We had opportunities with two outs and didn't [deliver]," Baker said.
Three of the Cubs' hits came off Michael Barrett's bat and two of them were homers. The trouble: Both came with the bases empty.
More trouble for the Cubs: Two of the Blue Jays runs were unearned because of errors by Corey Patterson and Perez.
Cubs starter Glendon Rusch was not involved in the final decision, although he pitched well enough to leave with the lead if not for an unearned run in the fifth inning.
Rusch's record remained 5-1, much of it compiled in the bullpen before he replaced Kerry Wood in the rotation. Last year he was 6-2 in place of Wood and Mark Prior.
"It's hard to quantify how important he has been," Baker said.
Rusch would like to have back Tuesday first inning, when he gave up a single, walk and double before he got a batter out.
He did limit the trouble to two runs, which his teammates got back with single scores in the third and fourth innings.
Patterson's strange throwing errorwhen he completely overthrew catcher Barrett from short left-center field after making a catchallowed Reed Johnson to score from third base and gave the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead in fifth.
And then the cat came.
"I was actually glad to see that black cat run across there," Barrett said. "I was like, 'Wow, this could turn things around.'"