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.
I feel like somehow I keep getting transported to the past, maybe by a time machine, to Cubs seasons’ past. This 2008 version of the Cubs seems very similar to the 2007 Cubs after the first two weeks. Bad baserunning, bad defense, bad bullpen, walking to many batters, not taking enough walks, and no clutch hits. There are two big differences beween the 08 and 07 Cubs. In 07, the Cubs at least had some starting pitching. This season, the Cubs bullpen has worked more innings then any other team in baseball. Both of their starting lefties, Rich Hill and Ted Lilly, cannot get out of the fifth inning. The other big difference is that somehow, some way, the Cubs are actually winning games, especially one run ballgames and extra inning games. As bad as it looked in Pittsburgh and Philly, the Cubs actually are coming home after a winning road trip after taking the final game of the series against the Phils, 6-5. Some of those bad breaks that went against the Cubs last year are starting to go our way.
Jason Marquis, recovering from strep throat, was able to weasle out of plenty of jams and keep the Cubs in it. Marquis loaded the bases with one out and only gave up one run. The Cubs were able to jump out in front thanks to three singles by Henry Blanco, Alfonso Soriano, and an RBI single by Reed Johnson. Derek Lee then hit a double, driving in two more runs and giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead. Jason Werth made it 3-2 on a leadoff homer by Jason Werth, in the bottom of the fifth, but Mark DeRosa returned the favor by hitting a leadoff homer in the top of the sixth that went over the foul pole. Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel was thrown out after arguing with the third base umpire. With the Cubs leading 4-2, Marquis was done for the day and Michael Wuertz, who has been one of the most reliable relief pitchers came into the game. Wuertz gave up a solo home run to Eric Bruntlett to start out the inning, then gave up three singles in a row, tying the game 4-4. With runners at first and third and no outs, Sean Marshall came into the game and got Chase Utley to fly out, but the go ahead run crossed the plate. Marshall and Marmol finished the inning with the Cubs now down 5-4.
In the top of the eighth, former Cubs Tom “Flash” Gordon came into the game. He got Fukudome to strike out swinging, but then walked Mark DeRosa. DeRosa was replaced by pinch runner Ronnie Cedeno. Ryan Theriot hit a single, and the Cubs had runners at first and second with one out. Felix Pie was announced as the pinch hitter, but then the Phillies changed pitchers, bringing in lefty JC Romero to pitch. Lou called Pie back and brought in Geovany Soto. Cedeno then stole third on a very close play, putting runners at first and third. Geo Soto then tried to check his swing, but the ball hit the barrel of his bat and inbetween the first and second baseman, tying the game.
Closer Kerry Wood came into the game in the bottom of the eighth, and only gave up a single. The Cubs did nothing in the top of the ninth, and then the bottom of the ninth was heart pounding. Tell me if I am the only one that thinks this, but once again, my time machine came and took me back to 1989. When Kerry Wood comes into the game, do you feel like you did when Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, came into the game. You are either going to see amazing stuff, or be scared half to death, or both. In the bottom of the 9th, he walked the first batter he faced, Pat Burrell. Burrell was pulled for pinch runner and former Cardinal So Taguchi. The next batter, Pedro Feliz, bunted the ball and Wood made a dangerous throw to second to get Taguchi out. He then hit pinch hitter Greg Dobbs, putting the winning run at second with only one out, but he got Eric Bruntlett to strike out. With two outs and runners at first and second, Derek Lee made an amazing play to snag the game winning double from Carlos Ruiz to keep the game alive.
In the top of the tenth, pitcher Rudy Seanez walked Ronny Cedeno to lead off the innign. Cedeno advanced on Ryan Theriot’s sacrifice and Geovany Soto walked. With no more
position players on the bench, Lou called on Carlos Zambrano to pinch hit for Kerry Wood,. Z hit a ball to the shortstop for what would’ve been a 6-4-3 double-play, but Z was hustling down the line and Chase Utley’s throw was short and got past first baseman Ryan Howard. Cedeno was able to score the go-ahead run. Of course, nothing is easy for the Cubs. Bob Howry came in for the save and quickly got the first two batters out. He then gave up a double to Chase Utley that was about one foot away from being a home run. With Utley on first, Howry intentionally walked Ryan Howard. The next batter would have been Burrell, but he was lifted in the ninth for a pinch runner and So Taguchi took his place. Taguchi grounded out to end the game.
Besides the obvious pitching woes, the Cubs offense has been spotty at best. Lou addressed this after the game.
“We haven’t been consistent,” Piniella said. “We’ve had some good offensive days, and we’ve had other days where we haven’t done much. About the only thing I can do is start putting more speed into the lineup. When you don’t have much speed and you’re not hitting, you look lethargic on the field. The possibility there is to put as much speed as we can and force the action a little more. We’ve done that in a few games, but I’ve basically stayed in a set lineup. Outside of that, we just have to keep working.”
“You’ve got to go the other way with the ball a little more, and stay on it longer,” Piniella said. “With our team, I think patience is not our biggest strength. One thing I can do is play a quicker team and that’s in the back of my mind.”
There. Someone finally said it. The Cubs are not a patient team. You can just see it, especially against pitchers like Brett Myers the other night or Cole Hamels. The Cubs just hack away and don’t wait for the right pitch.
The Return Of Baker
Tomorrow I will give my two cents on the whole Dusty Baker saga. You all know where I stand on this. The Cubs have a tough series ahead with the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are coming off a tough sweep to the Pittsburgh Pirates. They will send Aaron Harang to pitch against Ryan Dempster. Tensions will be high and it will be interesting to see if the Baker factor will add some more fuel to the fire.
Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Holy Cow!! After Wednesday’s horrible loss, it felt like the Cubs wouldn ‘t win a game all year. They did get the win today and prevented Milwaukee from sweeping the Cubbies. If you told me that it would be Ryan Dempster who would silence the mighty Milwaukee bats, I would have laughed at you, but sure enough, he did.
It looked like the Cubs were picking up where they left off on Wednesday, when Dempster walked Ricky Weeks to start the game. He advanced to third on Tony Gwynn Jr.’s double. Prince Fielder then flew out to right, and Kosuke Fukudome fired
home, trying to one-hop the ball to catcher Geovany Soto. The ball went a little towards the third base line and Weeks collided full-force with Soto, knocking the catcher over. Dempster tried to recover the ball and flip it to Soto as Gwyn Jr was coming home, but the ball sailed over his head. Cubs were down 2-0 in the first. Fukdome was charged with an error, but I don’t know why. Maybe something about that hit woke the Cubs up, because they finally began to look alive.
The Cubs finally got some breaks go their way. In the second Ramierz walked, then reached third when Fukudome doubled, thanks in part to the bad defense of left fielder Ryan Braun. Mark DeRosa then hit a ball that took a bad-hop at third, scoring Ramirez. Soto hit a sac fly to tie the ball game up. Boy, they moved Braun to left so he wouldn’t hurt them defensively, but now he may haunt them at third. There were a lot of other balls that Braun misplayed today.
The Cubs finally were able to turn the momentum in the bottom of the fourth. Milwaukee starting pitcher Dave Bush started out the inning by walking Fukudome. Fukuidome stole second on a horrible two bouncer by Kendall (four different Cubs were able to steal bases on Kendall). Bush then hit DeRosa and then walked Soto to load the bases. Felix Pie was up, but struck out on three high fast balls. Doh! Then Dempster tried to bunt with two strikes, but struck out. Doh! It looked bad. The Cubs had the bases loaded and no outs, and now the runners hadn’t move and Bush was one out away of getting off the ropes. But Alfonso Soriano, now back in the leadoff spot, actually drew a bases loaded walk. No, that is not a typo. Soriano actually was able to draw a walk. Fukudome crossed the plate and the Cubs had their first lead of 2008 and wouldn’t give it up the rest of the game. It would have been a lot nice to have cleared the bases on a hit, but at that point the Cubs needed to get at least one in. I think if Bush would have gotten out of that inning, the momentum would have shifted towards Milwaukee, and we might have been looking at a sweep.
After struggling in the first, Dempster cranked it up. He retired 18 of the last 21 hitters he
faced. Only four of his 18 outs were on balls hit to the outfield; the rest were on grounders and strikeouts. How clutch was Dempster. In a game the Cubs needed to avoid the sweep, he slammed the door on a great offensive team. Marmol pitched two innings, giving up one run on two hits and a walk. Kerry Wood got the first save of his career and the Cubs were in the win column.
So the Cubs got their first win, Soriano got his first hit of the season, as did Aramis Ramriez, a home run. Dempster got his first win as a starter in a Cubs uniform, and Kerry Wood got his first careet save. Now come the Houston Astros. Rich Hill will make his first start of the season against Chris Sampson. Hill really struggled this spring, so I wonder how long the leash is for him. Houston can’t pitch,but they can still rake the ball. The Astros have scored 12 runs in four games, but they have given up 15 runs and are 1-3. On Saturday, Jason Marquis facesRoy Oswalt(gulp), and on Sunday, Zambrano will face Wandy Rodriguez. Zambrano was recently told to eat more bannanas and not drink coffee or red bull. You mean to tell me no one has ever told Z to cut down on the caffine!!!!????
Box Score for 4/3
|Dempster (W, 1-0)||6.0||3||2||1||2||5||0||1.50|
|Wood (S, 1)||1.0||1||0||0||0||2||0||13.50|