CHICAGO -- Watching the Chicago Cubs, destiny's victims, fumbling their way toward an exit from the postseason on Thursday night, what kept coming to mind was a Bob Dylan lyric. Take it, Bob.
"Your long-time curse hurts /
But what's worse /
Is this pain in here /
I can't stay in here /
Ain't it clear that /
I just can't fit /
Yes, I believe it's time for us to quit."
That's from "Just Like a Woman," for those of you keeping score at home. For the purposes of this discussion, we are renaming it "Just Like the Cubbies."
The song was obviously not about baseball, but the theme of hopeless/misplaced romantic attachment works for the past 100 years of Cubs history, intertwined with the history of this team's truly devoted and perpetually disappointed followers.
This usage is not meant to cast the Cubs in a gender-specific role. The lyric just worked. It could have been from "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," for all that it mattered.
The performance on Thursday night in Game 2 of a National League Division Series was not, literally, "Just Like a Woman." But it was "Just Like the Cubbies."
But Big Z was OK. You could not pin this one on Carlos Zambrano. He was not unhittable, but he threw strikes and would have given the rest of the Cubs a chance, had they given themselves a chance. No, there were other fingerprints at the scene of this crime.
Cubs Down, Not Out
Only once has a club lost the first two games of a Division Series at home and come back to win it. The New York Yankees rallied from an 0-2 deficit against the Oakland Athletics in the 2001 ALDS.
Oak @ NY
Oak @ NY
NY @ Oak
NY @ Oak
Oak @ NY
The Dodgers' second inning was like the microcosm of everything that has happened on the wrong side of the ledger to this team for the past century. Unfortunately, it came in a Game 2 of a Division Series. If the Cubs had won this game, they would have gone to Southern California with a bounce in their step. Now, they will go with the knowledge that the 16 National League teams that lost the first two games of a Division Series went 0-16 in those Series.
It could have been different. It should have been different. It wasn't different. That's the way it goes around here.
Andre Ethier started the second inning with a clean single, but that was almost the last straightforward thing that happened. Dodgers manager Joe Torre made the aggressive call, a hit-and-run, and James Loney -- him again? -- delivered a bouncer to the left side. Shortstop Ryan Theriot was caught heading toward second to cover, reached back with his bare hand but was able to only deflect the ball. An unfortunate but not yet fatal set of circumstances.
There were runners on first and third, but Zambrano struck out Matt Kemp and hope lived. Zambrano then got the double-play grounder out of Blake DeWitt that the situation demanded, but second baseman Mark DeRosa muffed it. Zambrano then got another grounder, this one from Casey Blake, but it was mishandled by first baseman Derrek Lee. This was a tougher chance than DeRosa's but still well within the range of a Gold Glover such as Lee.
Before the inning ended, Rafael Furcal laid down a very nice bunt and then the whole thing unraveled on Russell Martin's three-run double. The total damage was five runs, four unearned. The way the Cubs were hitting, the rest of the game was something like a long, slow formality. Eventually, the Cubs fielded for the cycle, committing an error at each infield position. The 10-3 final was a fair summary of the nature of this contest.
With four errors in Game 2 of the NLDS, the Chicago Cubs tied the Division Series record for most errors in a game. In addition, it was the second time in postseason play that each of a team's infielders made at least one error in game. The Detroit Tigers did it in Game 1 of the 1934 World Series (1B Hank Greenberg, 2B Charlie Gehringer, SS Billy Rogell and 3B Marv Owen) against the Cardinals.
The thing that is troubling for the Cubs here, beyond the obvious fact of the defeat, is the fact that the big mistakes are being made by the Cubs who have been the biggest contributors, among the most substantial citizens on the club. Ryan Dempster with the seven walks on Wednesday night, DeRosa and Lee with the crucial errors here. These people do not make very convincing villains, but at the moment they were needed most, they delivered least.
It was painful to watch, but it was not like a shockingly new development. This was the eighth straight postseason loss for the Cubs, dating to seizing defeat from the jaws of victory in the 2003 NL Championship Series.
The deal, though, was that this team was supposed to be better than what had come before, deeper in both the lineup and the pitching staff than so many of its predecessors. And in compiling the NL's best regular-season record, it was.
But here in October, these games are not won by the better team. These games are won by the team that is playing better. History says that isn't the Cubs. Thursday night, it still wasn't the Cubs.
"These were the two worst games we played all year for walks and errors," manager Lou Piniella said. "I don't think you can win 97 ballgames playing that way."
There was a lot of stunned silence going on at Wrigley Field, for the second postseason night in a row. This was supposed to be a place of celebration this October. Maybe next Tuesday for Game 5. Maybe next October.
So Dylan, as usual sums it up nicely -- the curse, the pain, the inability to fit in where you want to fit in. For "Just Like the Cubbies" for this moment, Bob was wrong only in "I believe it's time for us to quit."
If you're the Cubs, you can't quit now, when you have to be beaten three times, not twice, to lose. But from here, you can see all too clearly how soon it could be time to quit.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.