The sun was shining. The wind was blowing out. It was 67 degrees at game time.
Seemingly a perfect setting Thursday at Wrigley Field.
Sammy Sosa even came to the plate in the ninth inning with the tying run at third base. But with two outs, the Cubs slugger popped out on an adventurous play for the Mets' infield and New York held on for a 3-2 victory.
Was it a surprise Mets manger Bobby Valentine didn't have closer Armando Benitez walk Sosa intentionally?
"There was some talk in the dugout about walking Sammy," Valentine said. "But Manny [Benitez] is the best there is, and he threw well enough to get him out."
Sosa's high pop in the infield forced shortstop Rey Ordonez to cross the diamond and catch the ball between first and second for the final out.
"In every situation, of course, you want [Sosa] at the plate," Cubs manager Don Baylor said. "The wind's blowing out. There's a fastball pitcher. Everything was set up just right for us."
But the Cubs' offense sputtered again. After leaving 20 runners on base in the first two games of the series--15 in the opener--the Cubs stranded 10 Thursday.
"It's frustrating," Baylor said. "You can see the tension out there. Everybody wants to do the right thing. Right now every close play we don't get."
Despite striking out six and allowing five hits, two walks and one earned run in 6 2/3 innings, pitcher Juan Cruz (0-2) received no offensive support again. The right-hander lost a 3-1 outing at Cincinnati in his first start.
"I felt good today," said Cruz, who was helped out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the first inning when left fielder Roosevelt Brown threw out Roger Cedeno at the plate on an attempted sacrifice fly. "My breaking ball [and] my change-up were working today."
New York took a 1-0 lead in the third when Roberto Alomar singled, stole second and scored on Edgardo Alfonzo's two-out bloop single down the right-field line.
Cruz settled in after that, retiring the next 11 batters before Ordonez reached on a close call at first base in the seventh inning. Two batters later Ordonez scored on a Delino DeShields error for a 2-0 lead.
The Mets increased the lead to 3-0 when Mike Piazza homered in the eighth.
The Cubs rallied in the bottom half of the inning. Sosa hit a one-out home run to left field. Then Fred McGriff, Alex Gonzalez and Brown all singled to load the bases.
But pinch-hitter Mario Encarnacion hit a line shot back to Mets relief pitcher Scott Strickland, who snared the ball and doubled up McGriff at third base.
"That's just part of the game," McGriff said. "They swung the bat well and got some big hits when we couldn't get that one big hit."
In the ninth Cubs third baseman Mark Bellhorn cut the deficit to 3-2 with a home run onto Sheffield Avenue. Joe Girardi followed with a single, moved to second on DeShields' sacrifice and went to third on Corey Patterson's groundout before Sosa's at-bat against Benitez.