The Cubs can't come out on the right side of every one-run ballgame.
After five straight wins, the Cubs looked imperfect in a 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in front of 41,250 people at Wrigley Field Saturday.
The Jake Arrieta-Madison Bumgarner matchup proved to be a solid pitcher's duel, but Arrieta and the Cubs gifted the Giants all three runs.
Tommy La Stella - inserted into the lineup when Jorge Soler was a late scratch - committed a throwing error in the first inning to hand the Giants their first run.
In the third, two Arrieta wild pitches put Joe Panik on third base for Eduardo Nunez's seeing-eye single into shallow right field.
In the fourth, Brandon Crawford singled, stole second, jetted to third when the Cubs left the bag vacant on a shift and then scored on another Arrieta wild pitch.
"You knew coming in it's going to be a close game," Arrieta said. "Probably a one-run ballgame. We just got outplayed today. They made a few more plays than we did.
"[The mistakes] happen from time to time. Obviously you'd like to see it happen as infrequent as possible. It's not very common with our group of guys. You don't expect to see those things often."
The Cubs had a ninth inning rally killed when Anthony Rizzo - inserted into the game in the eighth inning - got caught too far off second base on Dexter Fowler's bunt and was thrown out trying to get back to the bag.
"Intense game. It was a great game," Joe Maddon said. "You can nitpick it all you want; I loved that game. That's very similar to a playoff situation.
"Things don't always go right or according to plan. I think the one thing you'd like to get back is Crawford going to third base unencumbered. But otherwise, things are going to happen. You're going to have a wild pitch or a passed ball. Rizzo is trying to be aggressive there - you'd rather he had not, but he did.
"But I love the intensity and the passion of the game. Why not? If we play with that kind of heart every night, I will take it."
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Despite the miscues, Arrieta had an overall solid outing - three runs (two earned) on four hits and a pair of walks against seven strikeouts in six innings. But he picked up his sixth loss of the season in the process, his first defeat in September since Sept. 7, 2013.
Arrieta's season ERA sits at 2.84 and he's in the running for the National League Cy Young Award, but he's still coming under scrutiny for falling short of the ridiculous stretch he went on in the second half of last season.
"I hear it, but that doesn't affect my play," he said. "The mindset is the same, the objective is the same - to execute a gameplan, to keep our team in the game and ultimately win the game.
"For me, the outing was average. It's still good enough to keep us in the game. Just came up a little short. That's all."
Maddon tried to explain Arrieta's so-called "struggles" before Saturday's outing.
"I'm not concerned. He's pitching pretty well," Maddon said. "It's hard to nail down on everything all the time perfectly. Last year, we saw near-perfection. We really did. It was just crazy how good he was.
"... For a variety of reasons, this game is very difficult. Things get off just a little bit and sometimes you don't even realize. I want to believe and I do believe that eventually he'll get back into it. I know they're working on different things right now.
"I just think that's the nature of the game. They're not robots. They're not computer-chipped where they can be programmed to do something specifically. But I'll take everything else he's done. It's still another spectacular year. It's easy to nitpick him based on what he had done last year."
The Cubs scratched together two runs off Bumgarner in six innings - the first coming on a heads-up play from Javy Baez to score on Arrieta's infield dribbler and the second on Baez's sacrifice fly.
But Bumgarner struck out 10 in his six innings and improved to 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA against the Cubs this season. In his career, he is 8-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 starts against the Cubs.
The only saving grace for the Cubs lineup Saturday was they forced Bumgarner out of the game in six innings after 103 pitches.
"He was very good," Maddon said. "I think he took advantage of our youth a little bit. You gotta start guessing for a while. But we got his pitch number up. We got him out of there in time.
"Maybe the approach needs to get a little bit better against him in the future. The passion and everything else was there and I'll take that every day of the week.
"As young players are developing into better major-league players, as long as they're showing up and they're right there, I'll take it."