Summertime returned to Wrigley Field on Saturday.
That meant short sleeves and shorts in the stands and flags flapping out toward center field on the ballpark roof.
It also meant fly balls flying out of the place.
Even though he’s a Florida guy, Cubs manager Joe Maddon professes to liking the Wrigley Field that plays bigger, even though the trade-off can be a cold and biting wind.
Maddon’s Cubs ran out to a 4-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning and eventually let a 6-2 lead get away as the visitors came away with an 8-7 victory.
“Wow, yeah, just two different fields, isn’t it?” said Maddon, whose team lost its second in a row to fall to 6-5. “They got more balls in the air than we did, and that’s pretty much the tale of the game. That’s why I prefer the ‘other Wrigley Field.’ I’d much rather pitching-and-defense Wrigley than the offensive Wrigley.”
The Cubs got a booming two-run homer from Kris Bryant off the videoboard in left-center field in the four-run first. Bryant added a solo homer in the ninth to make it a one-run game.
But the Pirates picked up four homers, two off starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and one apiece off relievers Brian Duensing and Pedro Strop, who has a 9.00 ERA.
Arrieta did his best to contain the Pirates as he went 52/3 innings, giving up five hits and three runs. He allowed a homer to Francisco Cervelli in the second and one to Starling Marte to start the sixth.
There’s certainly no panic with the Cubs. They won their first three series of the season but will lose this one.
But they will be compared to last year’s world-championship team, which ran out to an epic 25-6 start to the season.
“I think our division’s going to be competitive,” Bryant said. “The Brewers and Reds, obviously, are doing a lot better this year. Everybody just wants to write them off, but they’re very competitive teams, and obviously, the Cardinals always play us tough. The Pirates, too. I think it’s going to be a battle to the end, but we’re not really worried about how we started off last year compared to this year. Last year was kind of a fairy tale year for us. It’s not always going to be like that, so it’s important to realize that early on so we’re not hitting that panic button like we did around the All-Star break last year.”
Arrieta said it’s a matter of framing the issue.
“It depends on the questions you guys ask, I guess,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to us. We won the World Series last year, so there will be questions. But that’s just natural. That comes with the territory. It’s a business of results. We still expect really good results from the group we have this year.”
Of course, Maddon is going to paint a picture as warm and sunny as Saturday’s summerlike landscape.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “We could be almost 10- or 11-0 right now with just a knock or two here or there. We’ve actually played pretty well. The games haven’t been bad. And that’s the laser-thin line between winning and losing, man. It’s just been that close. Every game has been kind of like today’s game.”