Cubs Put 0-14 Skid To Bed With Nightcap

They Squeak By Mets After Dropping 1st Game, Leave O's Record Intact

April 21, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The record is safe. The Chicago Cubs lost their 14th straight game yesterday, but came back and won the second game of a rain-makeup doubleheader to leave the Orioles' dubious place in baseball history undisturbed.

The Orioles lost 21 games to open the 1988 season, a record that could stand for a long, long time, but it would have become an issue if the Cubs had come up empty in a four-game series at Shea Stadium. The first game was rained out on Friday. The Mets won the second game on Saturday and pounded four Chicago pitchers on the way to an 8-2 victory in the first game yesterday.

Then, mercifully, they laid their bats down and allowed the Cubs to get up.

Right-hander Kevin Foster pitched 6 1/3 strong innings and the Cubs rode a 12-hit attack to a 4-3 victory before 18,484. There were some touchy moments at the end, but the law of averages -- the one that says you can't lose them all -- finally took effect.

"It feels good to win a ballgame," said manager Jim Riggleman, who managed to keep his composure throughout baseball's second-longest season-opening losing streak. "Now, we can get the attention off the negative streak and look toward all the good things that are happening with baseball and -- hopefully -- with the Cubs."

The streak was just starting to evoke some painful memories in Baltimore and points west. Former manager Frank Robinson, who presided over the final 15 games of the Orioles' record futility streak, watched the highlights of yes

terday's second game on television from his Los Angeles home, but said last night that he was not rooting for the Cubs to relieve his team of the unenviable record.

"I don't root for that kind of thing," Robinson said. "I wouldn't wish something like that on anybody. I was rooting for them to win a game. I know what they were going through. I know what he [Riggleman] was going through."

Everybody knew what Riggleman was going through in the ninth inning, when the Mets rallied from a three-run deficit to score two runs and put the tying run in scoring position.

Who could help but wonder if the Cubs were truly cursed when closer Mel Rojas, who was signed as a free agent last winter to shore up the bullpen, entered the game in a rare save situation and promptly pulled a hamstring?

"It was certainly very discouraging," Riggleman said, "but we had a three-run lead and I felt we hopefully could hold the thing."

What else could go wrong? The Cubs were blown out of the first game by unheralded outfielder Carl Everett, who was batting a sterling .077 when he hit a game-breaking grand slam in the third inning. Just for good measure, Everett also homered from the other side of the plate later in the game.

What indeed. Wendell took over in the ninth inning of the second game and gave up a single, a walk and then a two-out, two-run double to Lance Johnson. The final batter for the Mets, ironically enough, was former Oriole Manny Alexander, who had four hits in the doubleheader but grounded into the final out of the game.

"When Lance hit that double and that Alexander guy, who had been getting hits all day long, came up, I have to be honest, I didn't feel too comfortable," said Cubs first baseman Mark Grace. "But we got it. Thank God."

Wendell had to be particularly relieved. He played a prominent role in the club's 13th straight loss on Saturday and was one hit away from a blown save that would have been devastating.

"That was a Randy Myers save," Wendell said of the former Cub. "I made it interesting."

The victory was cause more for relief than celebration, since it was their first since last Sept. 27 and only their third in their last 28 regular-season games dating to Sept. 14.

"We're 1-14 and that's atrocious," Grace continued, "but I'm going to have a little fun tonight. I think we can build on this and play better baseball."

The Cubs already had broken the National League record for the longest losing streak to begin a season and the loss in the first game yesterday broke the club record for the longest losing streak of any kind in the 122-year history of the franchise.

"You don't want to be in this type of situation, but you have to look for some positives," Riggleman said. "Fortunately, nobody jumped out to a 14-3 start in our division. It's going to be a tough challenge, but it is not insurmountable."

Pub Date: 4/21/97

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