By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — On a day when two of the best pitchers in baseball matched up, it came as no surprise that defense and heads-up baseball would play a big part in determining a winner.
On Saturday, it was the Cubs who came up short in both departments. Right-hander Jake Arrieta pitched well, but both he and the team made physical and mental mistakes that saw the eventual winning run cross the plate in the pivotal sixth inning of a 3-2 loss to the Giants at Wrigley Field.
In the San Francisco sixth, shortstop Brandon Crawford stole second base with one out when neither Cubs shortstop Addison Russell nor second baseman Ben Zobrist covered the base. With an extreme shift then being utilized and third baseman Javier Baez moved over toward shortstop, Crawford then stole third base without a look over by Arrieta. Crawford scored soon after on a wild pitch by Arrieta to give the Giants their all-important third run.
“That is the one play during the whole game I would want back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Crawford’s steal of third. “We just let Crawford go to third base. That of course set up the next the next play. That is the one thing we cannot permit to happen.”
Maddon fumes at poor play only when his team looks unprepared for the most obvious of situations. In this case, a look over to the runner at second likely would’ve diffused any attempt of Crawford moving up.
“That was nothing,” Maddon said about the positioning of Baez on the steal of third. “This was just not paying attention. Javy easily gets to third base. We had talked about that. We were aware of that. We just didn’t react on the mound.”
Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner was his usual stellar self Saturday, winning his 14th game after allowing two runs in six innings. The Cubs missed a chance to take the lead with Matt Szczur struck out with runners at second and third to end the sixth inning, after a Baez had plated one run on a sacrifice fly.
Chicago’s last chance was squandered by a base-running gaffe by the usually heads-up Anthony Rizzo, who had the day off until pinch-hitting in the ninth inning. Rizzo walked, then advanced to second on a bunt by Dexter Fowler. Rizzo circled second base wide, and Giants first baseman Brandon Belt threw behind him to shortstop Brandon Crawford. Stuck in no man’s land, Rizzo was tagged out attempting to get back to second.
“I thought I saw third open,” Rizzo said. “Posey made a good dash there. I just got frozen, just bad base-running play on my part.”
Kris Bryant popped out to Crawford to end the game.
Chicago dropped to 20-20 in one-run games on the season.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.