For the second time in three games, the bullpen blew a lead, as Drew Stubbs smacked his first career grand slam in the eighth inning off rookie Esmailin Caridad to power the Reds to a 5-4 victory on Friday night over the Cubs.
"Remember what I said in Spring Training? Everything was fine when we were in afternoon single-deck stadiums," Piniella said. "All of a sudden, it gets a little different and we had to see. Well, we haven't seen what we'd like to see, let's put it that way."
On Tuesday, John Grabow served up a game-winning homer to Atlanta's Chipper Jones in the eighth to waste a solid outing by Ryan Dempster. On Friday, Carlos Silva deserved better.
Silva was in line for his first win in a year after holding the Reds to three hits over six innings. Acquired in December from Seattle for Milton Bradley and cash, he looked more like an 18-5 pitcher this spring than someone who had gone 5-18 in two seasons.
But Silva was lifted after 71 pitches and some soreness in his right shoulder, which he downplayed after the game.
"You ask all the questions because we lost the game," Silva said. "If we win, nothing."
Chicago had a 3-1 lead when Caridad took over in the eighth. One of three rookies in the Cubs' bullpen, he walked the first two batters he faced, and pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson was safe after a bunt to load the bases. Stubbs then launched a 1-0 pitch into the Reds' bullpen for his first homer.
"It was a fastball out over the plate," Stubbs said. "With his struggles earlier in the inning to get ahead of batters, I knew he was probably going to come right at me. Sure enough, he did, and left a fastball out over the plate and I was able to put a good swing on it."
Caridad didn't agree with some of home-plate umpire Doug Eddings' calls in the eighth.
"I threw a strike and the umpire didn't call a strike -- I don't know why," Caridad said.
"You can't walk people in the eighth inning," Piniella said. "He gets two strikes on the first hitter, then walks two hitters, then the bunt and the home run."
The Cubs did have chances, stranding 13 in the game, and had a rally going in the ninth. With one out, Derrek Lee hit his first homer, and one out later, the Cubs loaded the bases on two singles and an error. But Francisco Cordero got pinch-hitter Chad Tracy to ground out to end the game.
"We had that game in hand," Piniella said. "I bring in a reliever in the eighth inning to pitch to the bottom part of the lineup and we walk the guys. If they hit the ball, it's fine. They get paid to hit. To walk two people, you're looking for trouble with the lead."
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the first. Rookie Tyler Colvin, who didn't draw a walk all spring while hitting .468 and leading the Majors in at-bats, walked with one out, reached third on Lee's single and scored on Aramis Ramirez's sacrifice fly.
The Reds tied the game in their half when Stubbs tripled and scored on Orlando Cabrera's sacrifice fly. Xavier Nady hit an RBI single with one out in the third to go ahead, 2-1, and Lee added an RBI single with two outs in the fourth, driving in Ryan Theriot.
Silva was the star, or should have been.
"The only thing I was doing today as the same thing I did in Spring Training was try to use all my pitches and try to command my pitches," Silva said. "Before I came to the field I was a little nervous. The only thing I tried to put in my mind was the catcher's glove and you. You and the catcher's glove, and forget about everything else."
The Cubs will be able to tweak the pitching staff once Ted Lilly returns. The left-hander was scheduled to make his next-to-last Minor League start on Sunday for Triple-A Iowa. Silva's role is not in jeopardy.
"He did his job," Piniella said of the right-hander. "He pitched very well. We've had three really nice starts in a row and we've won one ballgame. That's not good."
The players know it.
"It's hard -- we should be 3-1 right now," Silva said. "I think we're playing good enough. This is hard, because later on, you're going to need these wins, especially in this division."
"I hope the games we lost now we don't need in September," Alfonso Soriano said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less