Sleepwalking while playing baseball is never a good idea, particularly when you are in a race for a postseason spot.
But the Cubs looked more like pretenders than contenders Wednesday night in Citizens Bank Park, giving away a game to Philadelphia that defied belief.
Michael Barrett's rushed throw to third on a rundown of Jimmy Rollins brought home the winning run with two outs in the ninth, giving the Phillies a wild 4-3 victory.
"I don't know what happened tonight," Derrek Lee said. "Mentally, we didn't show up. We can't afford to play like that."
With the bases loaded and one out, reliever Michael Wuertz struck out Pat Burrell, but the pitch got away from Barrett. Barrett pounced on the passed ball and had Rollins caught halfway between third and home. But instead of getting Rollins in a rundown, Barrett rifled a throw to Aramis Ramirez at third, allowing Rollins to waltz home with the winning run.
"You're taught to run at him every time," Barrett said. "I just panicked and threw the ball."
Manager Dusty Baker turned his back on the field after Rollins touched the plate, refusing to accept what his eyes had seen.
"I haven't seen anything like that," Baker said. "They say you always see something new in baseball. We didn't think very well tonight."
Barrett watched a replay afterwards and said Burrell had a foul tip on the swing, adding that umpire Dana DeMuth "did us a favor really by calling him out. If I had just eaten the throw and run at him, it would've been a different ballgame. I can't blame [DeMuth]. The place is so loud. I was expecting a foul tip call and didn't get it.
"Then I looked up and saw Rollins bearing down on me at home plate. I started to run at him and just threw it too early."
Barrett wasn't alone in making a mental mistake. Starter Jerome Williams, Glendon Rusch and Mike Remlinger all neglected to cover first on grounders to Lee, after Mark Prior did likewise on July 24 in St. Louis.
"It's frustrating," Lee said. "It's such a basic play. It's an out. Those are the plays you have to make."
Baker was livid over the lack of execution by Cubs pitchers.
"That's what we work on all the time," he said, "You can understand that happening early in the year, but later in the year, it's a natural thing that when a ball is hit to the right side, you cover first base. We gave them six outs in that [second] inning. We gave them three out of four runs."
Rollins started the ninth with a double off Mike Remlinger. Kenny Lofton then advanced him to third with a grounder to Lee. When Remlinger neglected to cover the bag, Lee made a belated slide, barely nipping Lofton and risking injury.
Baker ordered intentional walks to Chase Utley and Bobby Abreu, then brought in Wuertz to face Burrell with the bases loaded.
The Phillies scored three runs off Williams in the second inning on a rally ignited by Williams' failing to cover first on Ryan Howard's grounder with two on and no outs.
"I just froze," Williams said.
The Cubs eventually came back, tying it in the seventh on Todd Hollandsworth's broken bat, two-run, double off Rheal Cormier. In the end though, it was only a prelude to another sleepless night for Baker.
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