"You spend hours and hours on [defense] for 45 days of Spring Training, and to have the lapses in the games when it counts, it costs you games, it costs you pitches, it costs you not being able to go five innings," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
The Cubs rallied in the second against Ryan Vogelsong (1-1) as Nate Schierholtz singled to lead off against his former team, and moved up on Welington Castillo's single. One out later, Brent Lillibridge hit into a fielder's choice, forcing Castillo out at second. But shortstop Brandon Crawford's throw to first sailed, allowing Schierholtz to score on the error.
With one out in the Chicago third, Starlin Castro doubled and Anthony Rizzo launched the first pitch into the left-field bleachers. The Cubs loaded the bases, and Lillibridge smacked a two-run single, his first hit of the season, to go ahead, 5-0.
Rizzo now has three home runs, and all three have come on the first pitch. Opposing teams may change their strategy.
"You go up there looking for a pitch to hit and just being selectively aggressive," Rizzo said. "Hopefully, they keep throwing me first-pitch strikes."
The Cubs' lead was short-lived. The Giants had two on and two outs when Vogelsong reached on an error by Castro, who misjudged the grounder, trying to hurry his throw. One run scored. Pagan was safe on an infield single that Lillibridge fielded cleanly, but held because starter Scott Feldman was slow to cover first base. Another run scored. After Feldman hit Crawford with a pitch, Sandoval smacked his double to pull within one, 5-4.
"I feel really bad," Castro said of his error. "It's one of the plays I have to make. It's a routine play. The pitcher is running. I feel really bad those things happen. You have to know the pitcher is running. You have to be ready to wait for the ball and throw."
Castro led all Major League shortstops with 27 errors last season. He now has three in nine games this season.
"That one is basically not understanding that the pitcher hit the ball and you had plenty of time," Sveum said of Castro's miscue. "You didn't have to over-charge the ball and over-cook that whole play."
What happened with Feldman on the Pagan grounder?
"When I saw the ball was hit, I broke for the base," said Feldman, who also was charged with an error in the first when he botched another Pagan grounder. "I was expecting the throw [in the fourth]. I haven't looked at the replay, but maybe from the angle we were positioned at, it wouldn't have worked."
Feldman may be taking grounders at Wrigley on Friday.
"We'll have to get [Feldman] out early to start working on it, because that ain't acceptable," Sveum said.
Pitch count forced Feldman (0-2) out with two on and one out in the fifth. Nick Noonan singled to load the bases for his third hit of the game, and Hisanori Takahashi then walked Vogelsong to force in the tying run. Pagan hit a sacrifice fly and Crawford followed with an RBI single to go ahead, 7-5.
"It was a pretty good game for eight innings, but we couldn't cover first base twice, walked the pitcher, and the eighth hitter got three hits," Sveum said. "That was basically the ballgame, the eighth and ninth hitters."
The weather didn't help anyone's mood. It was a miserable 40 degrees at game time and fog enveloped the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Most of the sparse crowd, announced at 25,460, had umbrellas, ponchos, blankets, or all three, while the Cubs had an extra heater in the dugout, thanks to Sveum. They needed every advantage possible to deal with the reigning champs.
Rizzo had another chance in the ninth. The Cubs had closed to 7-6 in the eighth when Alfonso Soriano doubled and scored one batter later when Castillo grounded into a double play. In the ninth, Chicago had one on and two outs against Sergio Romo, and Rizzo took the first two pitches, both called strikes. Two pitches later, Romo got Rizzo looking at strike three.
"That's the situation we want to be in there," Rizzo said. "I just didn't come through today."
Romo, who has now saved all but one of the Giants' wins this year, focused on making quality pitches.
"He's a good hitter, a dangerous guy," Romo said. "He was in a position where he could have possibly won the game for his team. I wasn't really trying to pitch around him, but at the same time I wasn't like, 'Here you go,' either."
This was the first time the Giants rallied to win after a five-run deficit since Sept. 7, 2008, when they did so against the Pirates.
The Cubs, on the other hand, now lead the Majors with 10 errors.