They blew a seven-run lead and committed three errors on Monday before rallying for a 10-8, 12-inning win over the pesky Pittsburgh Pirates in a 4-hour, 47-minute marathon that didn't have to happen.
"You don't mind making errors in inconsequential times," said Chicago's Mark DeRosa, whose seventh-inning error led to the Pirates' tying run. "That game should've been over an hour and a half ago. I never point fingers at anyone else, I always point the finger at myself.
"I feel like we played the extra innings because of me," he said. "I'll forget about it a lot easier when we win ballgames."
The Cubs had opened a 7-0 lead after three innings, sparked by Ronny Cedeno's three-run double and a pair of RBI singles by Geovany Soto. But the Pirates pecked away at the lead, scoring four in the fourth off starter Ted Lilly.
The Pirates loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, and Luis Rivas hit a grounder to Cedeno, who overthrew first, enabling two runs to score. Chris Gomez then hit a grounder along the line to Aramis Ramirez, whose throw was off the mark, allowing two more runs to score. Nate McLouth hit an RBI triple to make it 7-5 and force Lilly's exit.
"I almost felt like that, at that point, I was trying to force the ball in there and going a little too fast," Lilly said. "It was rough, and somehow I'm smiling now."
As far as Cubs manager Lou Piniella was concerned, Lilly is going too slow, the infielders may be back on their heels, and that may be contributing to the errors behind him. Lilly smiled again.
"The way it appears is I'm going slow, but when I'm out there, I feel like I'm going too fast," the left-hander said. "I almost feel better when I'm a little bit slower. It's almost like I rush through my delivery when I go too fast. There are a lot of guys who can do it the other way -- Jon Lieber is a great example."
Lieber (1-1) saved the day for the Cubs, pitching three innings of relief and getting the win. But let's get back to DeRosa's miscue. Jose Bautista doubled with one out in the Pirates seventh, and one out later scored as DeRosa booted Nyjer Morgan's grounder to tie the game at 8.
"This game challenges you in different ways," DeRosa said. "One thing I've always prided myself on is being able to field the ground ball. The first seven games, it doesn't appear to be that way now."
Morgan is a fast base runner, so DeRosa was thinking he had to get rid of the ball quickly. Maybe too fast.
"I don't need extra ground balls," DeRosa said. "It's just a matter of bearing down a little better."
The Cubs entered Monday's game ranked third to last in the National League in fielding percentage, and now have committed eight errors in seven games. The Pirates have made 11 this season.
"We felt coming out of Spring Training that would be a strength," Piniella said of his defense. "I don't know if it's early in the season or what. I think, as we speak, we have as many errors as anybody in the National League, and that's something we have to correct and correct quick."
"I think we have a good defensive team," Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said. "We haven't played that way."
In the Chicago 12th, Ryan Theriot walked to lead off against Evan Meek (0-1), and stole second. Alfonso Soriano walked, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch on the first pitch to Felix Pie. One out later, Lee was intentionally walked to load the bases and Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to score Theriot.
"I just tried to put the ball in play," Ramirez said. "The guy was wild, and you don't know what you're going to get from a guy like that. You just try to put the bat on the ball and see what happens."
After a wild pitch, Kosuke Fukudome was intentionally walked to load the bases again. Meek, the Pirates' Rule 5 pick, then unintentionally walked DeRosa to force in a run.
The Cubs had only backup catcher Henry Blanco on the bench among position players by then. Carlos Zambrano had grabbed a bat if needed to pinch-hit. Rich Hill was in the bullpen in case the Pirates tied it in the 12th. The lights were turned on at PNC Park and rush hour was over for downtown Pittsburgh workers.
Teams don't normally blow seven-run leads. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Cubs had a seven-run lead and lost was June 28, 2002, when they had an 8-0 lead against the White Sox, who rallied for a 13-9 win.
"You definitely don't want to lose that game," Lee said of Monday's contest.
Tuesday's off-day comes at a good time for the Cubs pitchers. They combined to issue a season-high eight walks.
"I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty," Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.