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Cubs squander 5-run lead

Chicago Cubs starter Scott Feldman, bottom, can't make the catch from first baseman Anthony Rizzo as San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan(16) is safe at first base during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Thursday, April  11, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Cubs starter Scott Feldman, bottom, can't make the catch from first baseman Anthony Rizzo as San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan(16) is safe at first base during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Thursday, April 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO – Starlin Castro was too quick in the field while Scott Feldman was too slow.

Partly because of those problems on defense Thursday, the Cubs gave away a five-run lead in a 7-6 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

With runners on first and third and two outs in the fourth inning, Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong hit a grounder to shortstop. Castro rushed the play and botched it, allowing San Francisco to score its first run.

Feldman (0-2) was slow to cover first base on Angel Pagan’s chopper to the right side, handing the Giants another run on Pagan’s infield single. Brandon Crawford was hit by a pitch, loading the bases, and Pablo Sandoval’s two-run double cut it to 5-4.

Feldman allowed a single to Brandon Belt and walked Gregor Blanco after getting one out in the fifth. Hisanori Takahashi relieved and Nick Noonan singled to load the bases. Vogelsong walked to force in a run and Pagan put the Giants ahead with a sacrifice fly. Crawford then singled in a run to make it 7-5.

The defensive miscues clearly annoyed Cubs manager Dale Sveum, whose team gave up four unearned runs and three hits to Noonan, the No. 8 batter in the lineup. In addition to Takahashi walking the opposing pitcher with the bases loaded, Feldman twice struggled to cover first base.

“Yeah, you spend hours and hours on it for 45 days of spring training and then to have the lapses in games when it counts,” Sveum said. “It costs you games, it costs you pitches, it costs you not being able to go five innings.”

Handed a 5-0 cushion after three innings, Feldman couldn’t hold the lead against the World Series champions and lost his second straight decision to start the season. He gave up six runs – two earned – and seven hits in 41/3 innings. He walked three and struck out three.

“The offense came out and threw five up there quick for me and I would have loved to keep going and put some zeros up there,” Feldman said. “But I ran into some trouble there in that one inning and threw too many pitches and they were able to claw a few across.”

Castro’s error was his third in nine games, and he said he was too aggressive in charging a routine grounder with the pitcher running.

“I feel really bad because that’s one of the plays you have to make. It’s a routine play and it’s the pitcher running,” Castro said. “Those things can’t happen because you have to know the pitcher’s running, you have to be ready to wait for the ball and throw.”

Vogelsong (1-1) yielded eight hits and five runs, four earned, in the first three innings before retiring his final 10 batters on a foggy and damp, 40-degree day. Meanwhile, the Giants rallied to win their fourth in a row.

Looking to win consecutive games for the first time this season, the Cubs (3-6) started building their lead early.

After scoring once in the second, they added four in the third. Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer and Brent Lillibridge snapped an 0-for-17 start to the season with a two-run single that made it 5-0.

But that was it for the Cubs until the eighth when they tried to rally against the Giants’ bullpen.

Alfonso Soriano led off with a double and moved to third on an infield single by Nate Schierholtz. Santiago Casilla relieved Jeremy Affeldt and induced a run-scoring double play from Welington Castillo. Luis Valbuena doubled to deep center but Casilla got out of the inning by striking out pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger.

Sergio Romo earned his sixth save this season for the Giants (7-3) by pitching a scoreless ninth despite allowing a one-out double to David DeJesus. Romo finished the game by striking out Castro and Rizzo.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy saluted his players for coming back from a five-run deficit despite traveling overnight from San Francisco.

“It’s easy to lay down at that point, but they fought back hard and that’s a great comeback for us,” he said. “I tip my cap to these guys because they kept grinding and they got it done.”

The big rally was the second in three games for San Francisco, which came back from a four-run deficit Tuesday to beat Colorado.

“This team’s got a lot of fight. We try to go out and win every game,” Romo said. “We believe we can win every game, understanding that it’s hard to do, but we try. Today was just a good example of pulling for each other and that never-say-die attitude.”

NOTES: San Francisco is in the midst of playing five consecutive day games (including four scheduled at Wrigley Field) for the first time since April 1996. ... The Giants have won eight of their last nine games against the Cubs. ... Giants RHP Matt Cain (0-1) faces Cubs RHP Carlos Villanueva (0-0) on Friday. ... Former Blackhawks great and NHL Hall of Famer Tony Esposito was the guest conductor for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch. ... It was the earliest date the Giants have played at Wrigley Field in the team’s 131-year history. Previously, the earliest visit was April 13, 1963. ... Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney will receive his Gold Glove before Friday’s game. He is on the 15-day disabled list with a left knee laceration but is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday against Texas.

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