Broadcaster Ron Santo couldn't make the five-hour plane trip to San Juan, so Cubs manager Dusty Baker told him during Sunday's pregame show the club would try to win the games so Santo wouldn't throw anything at his television.
Whether Santo tossed anything at his set during Wednesday night's 8-4 loss to Montreal is unknown, but if he did, there's a good chance he wasn't the only one in Chicago abusing a TV.
The Cubs collapsed in grandiose fashion under a full moon at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, watching the Expos score five two-out runs in the eighth inning off Kyle Farnsworth after a pop fly dropped in for a two-run double, erasing a one-run lead.
"This is real tough," Baker said, "because we gave it away."
In a game eerily reminiscent of the infamous Brant Brown debacle in the final week of the 1998 season, the Cubs led 4-3 when Farnsworth entered with a man on first and one out. After Endy Chavez stole second, Randall Simon gloved Orlando Cabrera's bunt and dove at the runner instead of making the short toss to Mark Grudzielanek at first. First-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ruled Cabrera safe as the tying run advanced to third.
"I did tag him," Simon claimed. "But it was tough for the umpire to see it because I'm going behind his back."
Farnsworth struck out Vladimir Guerrero and retired Ron Calloway on a comebacker, then induced pinch-hitter Jose Macias to pop up to short left. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez peddled backwards, but hesitated at the last second as the ball dropped in between him and Moises Alou, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score.
"I thought we were out of the inning," Baker said. "Everyone was hollering 'Yeah' on that high popup, but nobody really took charge on it. Somebody has to take charge on a ball hit that high. We just didn't play well tonight."
Alou was unavailable for comment when the Cubs closed the clubhouse. Gonzalez said it was a case of miscommunication.
"It was a high popup out in the outfield and I ran back and couldn't hear anything because of the noise," he said. "With the length of it going out, it was the outfielder's ball."
The roof quickly caved in on Farnsworth (3-2), who allowed three straight hits after the popup to let the game get out of reach.
It was a strange day for Matt Clement, who entered the sixth inning with a no-hitter and a 4-0 lead, but walked the first three batters he faced to load the bases. Clement said he got into a "bad rhythm."
"I don't know if there is any explanation for it," he said.
Baker made the decision to give Clement the hook, saying he was "hurting" while declining to specify the injury. Clement was hit in the right calf with a pitch in his last start, but didn't say he was in any pain after Wednesday's start.
Mark Guthrie proceeded to walk the only two men he faced, forcing in two runs.
"It's tough when you look up there [at the scoreboard] and you still have a no-hitter and they've scored two runs," Baker said. "I don't think I've ever seen that before."
Cabrera singled on Dave Veres' first pitch to make it 4-3, before Veres escaped further damage.
But for the Cubs, the full-moon madness was only beginning.