The roller coaster ride continues. The Cubs had this one. They had it in the bank. The Cubs had a 3-1 lead going into the ninth, going for the series win, and Kerry Wood blows it in the ninth. After the joy of Wednesday night’s game, this one was particulary painful for a few reasons
1. A win Thursday would have won the series for the Cubs
2. Zambrano played a marvelous game, He pitched 6 1/3 innings, gave up one run and two walks, striking out three. He also hit a home run, tying Fergie Jenkins for most home runs by a Cubs pitcher. The Cubs had three games against Milwaukee and three against St Louis. Zambrano is not going to pitch against the Red Birds, so this great start against a division rival was wasted.
3. The Cubs had the lead in a game I was very worried about. Anyone who watches baseball knows what a great young pitcher the Brewers have in Yovani Gallardo, but we were able to take a 3-1 lead into the ninth. Last year, or most Cubs teams in the last (pick a number) years would not have been able to have been as patient and put runs across the way our offense did.
4. Lou Pinella blew it. Nobody is perfect, not you, not me, not anybody. I’ve heard it said that managers decisions are usually responsible for the outcomes of roughly eight games., meaning that in 8 out of 162 games, a decision a manager makes wins or loses his team a game. Today was that day for Pinella and he knows it. During the very short post game interview with the media, Lou was asked if he “considered” having Reed Johnson, a more able defensive player, in left instead of Soriano. It was Soriano’s first game back in two weeks and Johnson had made one of the most fantastic catches in the history of baseball a week before in Washington. Yet in the top of the eighth inning, Lou took Johnson out of the game and replaced him with Felix Pie. There was nothing wrong with having your best defender in center with a 3-1 lead, but why, why, why didn’t Lou move Johnson to left and take Soriano out of the game. Soriano has alway been a poor defense outfielder. He doesn’t read the ball off the bat well, he takes poor routes to balls, he does a stupid little hop to catch balls, and he’s scared of bumping into the wall. The only thing he has going for him is a cannon for an arm. And it’s not like Soriano was having a monster offensive game. He went 0-4 with 3 ground outs and one pop fly. With a runner on first and no one out in the ninth, pinch hitter Gabe Kapler hit a ball that should have been caught for the first out, but it went over Soriano’s head, putting runners at second and third with no outs and a two run lead.
“I think the wind got the ball,” Soriano said. “He didn’t hit it good. It was blowing out, but in that inning, it was blowing out a little harder. I think that ball carried a little bit more.”
“You’re damn right I thought about it,”(putting Johnson in left) Pinella said. “You think I’m stupid or something? God…… darn it.”
Lou was a second away from a full fledged meltdown. You know why? He knew it. He should have trusted his gut and put Johnson in right. But he didn’t.
Of course it didn’t help that Kerry Wood was awful today. A few posts ago, I wrote about how Kerry Wood as closer was the second coming of Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams. He may be brilliant one day, horrible the next. Today he was horrible. He hit the very first batter he faced in the ninth, Craig Counsell. I know Counsell is a clutch player, but he was 0-3 and is batting .275. You know how it ends when you walk, hit, or give up a single to the first batter in the ninth. It’s just going to end bad. After the hit by pitch, Kapler hit the ball that landed over Sorinao’s head. Theriot made a decent play to keep a line shot from reaching center field, but Counsell scored and Kapler moved to third. Wood then walked Ricky Weeks to load the bases. He struck out Mike Cameron for the first out of the inning, but gave up a double to Ryan Braun, and Ricky Weeks was thrown out at home by Fukudome. The Brewers took a 4-3 lead and that was it for the Cubs.
Two Points That I would Like to Add
Point number one, as much as it pains me to write this, Soriano is the best option in the lead off spot. You can argue with me until you are blue in the face, but that’ s just a fact. Can it be annoying when Soriano is slugging for the fences when he just needs a single? Yes. Is it annoying when he doesn’t take any ptches? Yes. Is it discouraging that he always swings at high fastballs or brreaking balls that are low and away? Absolutely. But he is a very dangerous hitter, and when he gets going, he can carry a team. He started out bad in April last season and then was out until the end of May with a quad injury. When he came back, he carried the team on his shoulders in June and July. He was flat out hitting everything. Then, on August 3rd, he injured his hamstring. The Cubs cooled off considerably until he came back in September. Soriano went on another tear, propelling the Cubs to the 2007 Central Division title and the playoffs. Reed Johnson is never going to do that. However, I am very annoyed at the fact that Soriano felt that he didn’t need any minor league starts. When did the players start dictating their recovery methods? You haven’t seen live pitching in two weeks, then you are going to start out against a phenomenal pitcher like Gallardo? Was anyone shocked that Soriano went 0-4. How hard would it have been to take a few minor league rehab starts and get your swing going? It’s not like the Cubs desperately needed Soraino to come back. They score 19 friggin’ runs the day before. Why not go to triple A, and when you feel warmed up and you’ve hit the ball well, come up and help?
”Last year I didn’t do a rehab [assignment after a quadriceps injury], and this year I won’t do a rehab,” said Soriano,
”I’m worried,” he said of where his rhythm and timing will be upon his return, ”because I’ll miss two weeks. That’s why I want to hit early [in BP]. I don’t want to take more time to get my swing.”
So instead he is going to rehab in games that count? How long does Lou wait for Soriano’s rhythm and timing to return?
Point Two. Regardless of what anyone thinks, Carlos Marmol is not your closer. I know he is the best pitcher we have. I know that he has electric stuff, but he is not your closer. Marmol is far more valuable as the go to guy when thing get bad. Take today’s game for example. Z starting running out of gas in the seventh inning. He gets the first batter out, but then gives up back to back singles. Marmol comes in and strikes out the first two batters in Milwaukee’s
lineup, Weeks and Cameron. He then faces the most difficult part of the order in the eighth; Braun, Fielder, and Corey Hart. Only Corey Hart reaches, on a bunt single. The next batter is Bill Hall, who flys out to end the inning. So for all you people who want Marmol to be the closer, who did you want pitching to get out of that jam in the seventh and face the heart of the order in the eighth? Kevin Hart or Michael Wuertz??!?! That were great on Tuesday night. (dripping with sarcasm) Bob Howry, who gave up a two run homer to back up catcher Mike Rivera (who?!) on Wednesday night? Exactly. Today’s game was set up perfectly. All Wood had to do was get out Craig Counsell who was 0-3, striking out twice and flying out once, pinch hitter Gabe Kapler, who was making his first at bat as a pinch hitter, and Jason Kendall. Even if one of those guys gets on, you have Ricky Weeks, who is batting .204. As I said before, there will be days when Wood is brilliant, and days when he is horrible. If someone has a better suggestion, I am all ears. Realize this though, take Marmol out of his role of fire extinguisher, and you won’t have many leads to hand to the closer. You would have already have given them up.
The dangerous situation now is that the Cubs must go St Louis to face the red hot Cardinals. Picked by many to finish last in the division, the Cardinals are now alone in frist place with the Cubs .5 games back. Bradon Looper will face off against (gulp) Rich Hill!! Who’s feeling confident? Not me. The Cubs were able to bounce back after Tuesday nights disappointing defeat, can they do it again on Friday. The Cubs have lost 5 of the last 7, and everyone of those losses was a game we should have won. You lose a few more and we’re in some trouble. We are going to rely on Rich Hill, Ted Lilly, and Jason Marquis to turn this thing around against a very hot team. Let’s hope we have a miracle this weekend.