It all started on a crazy night in Colorado. The Cubs came from behind and beat the Colorado Rockies on April 23rd for the 10,000 franchise win. Since then, the Cubs have fallen into a very bad pattern. They keep winning one game, then losing two in a row. The Cubs continued this pattern for the fourth time since they lost the second game to Colorado by beating the Reds 3-0 tonight. The Cubs are in desperate need of a series win, after losing three straight series, and definately need to bulild some momentum before facing the league’s best team this weekend, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Carlos Zambrano was able to outduel Aaron Harang in the battle of the aces. Zambrano was able to go eight innings, gave up only three hits (two to Griffey Jr), walked three, struck out three, and picked Joey Votto off second base. Zambrano is now 5-1 in the first week of May. Is this the year that the Cubs finally have another 20 game winner? It appears that Z’s shaved head has had no affect on his pitching, so any superstitious Cubs fans need not worry.
The offense was able to score enough runs to back Big Z up. After Soriano led off the game by striking out (big surprise), Ryan Theriot singled to right. The struggling Derek Lee flew out to right, leaving Theriot on first with two outs, but then Aramis Ramriez stepped up to the plate. Ramirz had not played since Adam Wainwright hit him in the wrist with a fastball. His bat was sorely missed and after Theriot stole second, Ramriez hit a base hit up the middle for a two out RBI single, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Ronnie Cedeno had the most clutch hit of the night. In the top of the fourth, Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez both drew back to back walks. Fukudome sacrificed the runners to second and third for the first out. Geovany Soto struck out, but with two outs, Cedeno singled to right, scoring Lee and Ramirez and giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead. That was all the runs the Cubs needed as Z got them through the eighth, and on the night of ten year anniversery of his 20 strike out game, Kerry Wood closed out the ninth.
This road trip has been a disaster, especially for Derek Lee, Mark DeRosa (who sat on the bench), and Fukudome. With Soriano still stuggling, the Cubs have been losing a lot of close ball games, most of them by the score of 5-3. The Cubs are 3-13 in games where they score 3 runs or less and 16-1 when they score four or more. The Cubs need to find a way to win these close ballgames. You are not going to run up the score against a playoff team Playoff games are usually low scoring and won by the team that can manufacture runs. Lou was very frank about the state of the team after Monday night’s heartbreaking loss.
“I like our team. There are areas we need to get better at, and for us to win consistently, there are areas we have to get better at, plain and simple,” Piniella said. “We don’t have a powerhouse here. I don’t care what people say. I see this team play daily.”
I agree with Pinella on this point. Most of the MLB power ranking have the Cubs in the top 5, and I don’t buy that. Not the way they have been playing lately.
“We have a good team, and it’s a team that has to execute, that has to take advantage of opportunities, and has to pitch and has to do all the things teams do to win baseball games. We haven’t executed as well in some areas, and we have to get better. If we don’t, it’s going to be a struggle.”
“We might have to make some changes,” he said. “I hope not. I really hope not. I hope we can stay just the way we are, and we’re going through a rough spell and we can work our way through it. I’ve been giving some thought about doing some things with the baseball team. There’s no rush, but at the same time, there’s some food for thought.”
Uh-oh, the Cubbies better be shaking in their spikes, because last time Lou talked about making some changes, a lot of guys had to pack their bags. Remember last year after Lou gave a similar speech, Michael Barrett was gone, Cesar Izturis was gone, Matt Murton was sent to Iowa, Jacque Jones (who was just cut by the Tigers) was benched, etc. I hope Lou really means this, and not just to the support players, but the guys making the big bucks too. I’m looking at you Soriano.
The Cubs will send veteran pitcher Jon Lieber for his first start of the season. Luckily, Z’s eight inning rested the bullpen, which means they will be fresh for tomorrow. Lieber needs to be stretched out and may not be able to go much longer than 5 innings. Other guys will have to help out. The Reds send Edison Volquez, the second talented pitcher the Reds have in their rotation, in the rubber match of the series. In the last three rubber matches the Cubs have played in, Washington, Milwaukee,and St. Louis, they have dropped the third game. The Cubs need a win to salvage something out of this disaster of a road trip.