Playing three close games against the defending champion San Francisco Giants might be considered a positive for the rebuilding Cubs.
But it also shows how little things make a big difference for winning teams, especially defensively.
The Giants preserved a 3-2 victory Saturday by doing the things the Cubs couldn't, including turning two timely inning ending double plays that left the Cubs 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
The Cubs turned only one double play when they had a chance at as many as four, costing two runs.
``We had a chance to take the lead a couple times before they scored, which could change the game around,'' manager Dale Sveum said. ``We didn't put the ball in play a couple times, and that can be the difference in a game.''
Missing the cutoff man was another flaw Sveum saw in the seventh after Scott Hairston retrieved Marco Scutaro's single to right field, throwing it back beyond second base. The single scored Giants starter Madison Bumgarner (3-0) from second while Gregor Blanco went from first to third.
The inning ended without another run scoring when slugger Pablo Sandoval grounded to Starlin Castro to start the Cubs' lone double play.
But Sveum didn't like what he had seen.
``Players need to make those plays. That's the bottom line,'' he said. ``He threw a ball completely over two cutoff men's heads--not even in the same zip code.''
If defense and timely hitting continue to be problems, the starting pitching at least continues to be a positive.
Jeff Samardzija suffered another loss despite limiting the Giants to two runs through six innings.
``He wasn't as sharp as his first two outings, but he made some pitches when he had to and got out of jams,'' Sveum said. ``He still only gave up two runs with the wind howling out.''
Samardzija (1-2) was his own critic, blaming himself for walking Bumgarner in the third--though he was thrown out at second trying to advance on a pitch that almost eluded Castillo.
``That's two games in a row [walking a pitcher]. It's unacceptable. It's on me. It's wasting pitches and wasting outs and making your team work harder. It takes you out of a game in the sixth instead of the seventh or eighth.
``But there are positives and negatives in everything,'' he said. ``You assess every start as it and the pitches you made. I thought I made some good pitches. They did a great job of putting the ball in play. They did a good job of getting some hits, which got me out of rhythm.''
Samardzija wasn't the pitcher he was on opening day when he held the Pirates to two hits through eight innings. And he wasn't the pitcher he was in his last start against Atlanta when he struck out a career high 13 but lasted only 5 2/3 innings in a 5-1 loss.
But he kept the Cubs close, which is a starter's objective.
``A team like that, you have to keep the game close,'' he said of the Giants. ``You look at that team and understand how they approach the game and approach you as a power pitcher.
``They'll try to take some things away from you. You need to understand that. They work the count, they make you throw a lot of pitches, they have a game plan and stick with it.''