Today's boring 3-2 loss to the Brewers, evening the series at a win each, was a perfect example of why people are screaming for Jim Hendry to do something, anything to improve the offense.
Seriously -- Matt Clement, who had zero RBI this year before today, had to take matters into his own hands in the second inning, flaring a pretty little single over first base to drive in the first run.
Jose Macias, who was driven by Tomato Power (today's tomato landed on his square in both the first and second innings), then drove in the second run with a sac fly. Incidentally, we all noticed that Brewers RF Brady Clark was playing Macias way off the line in the first, and Macias smacked a long drive foul down the line before his leadoff double -- which was then wasted. Dusty "Don Baylor" Baker made Mark Grudzielanek bunt him to third, where he was stranded.
Bunting? In the first inning? Is this a way to jump-start an offense that's been feeble for two weeks?
I mentioned the 3-4-5 hitters, today's culprits being Corey Patterson, Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou, all mired in terrible slumps -- not only were they 0-for-12 (Alou reached on what was called an error on Scott Podsednik, but it was a tough error on an attempted running catch), but struck out five of those twelve at-bats, and in the 8th, Sammy flailed at Luis Vizcaino's first pitch and meekly grounded out. Vizcaino could have phoned in his appearance today, throwing only seven pitches (one to Mark Grudzielanek, who popped to short RF, five to Corey, who struck out on a terrible pitch, and the one to Sosa).
It was another day of goofy little rainshowers. It rained for about fifteen minutes just before noon, then cleared out, then rained again during BP -- which I was surprised either team took, considering they had a long night game last night, and the forecast of rain. It started raining again just at game time, and I suppose the umpires must have known it wouldn't rain too long, because they allowed the game to start, and after one out and four pitches to Craig Counsell, the second hitter, they had to hold up play -- for a whole thirteen minutes. By the time the ground crew covered the field, the rain had nearly stopped.
That was it for rain for the day, and with the rain went the Cub offense. Again, Clement pitched well -- he's now allowed a total of eight runs in his last six starts, with an 0-5 record to show for it. The go-ahead Brewer rally was partly his fault, as he had Bill Hall picked off first base in the seventh, but no one alerted him and instead he threw a wild pitch, allowing Hall to go to third, where he scored on a Brooks Kieschnick pinch-single past one of my most hated strategies, the pulled-in infield.
Today, while Jeff and I were holding seats for our usual group to show up, my friend Ernie called me from the street below, asking for three seats. Sure, Ernie. Luckily there was space in the third row for him and a couple of his business associates, who decided they'd play home run derby. Brian got involved, and I spent two innings telling them I didn't think anyone would hit one out today, because after the rain, the wind started blowing in off the lake. Geoff Jenkins smashed one that would have been out on any day, landing about five rows below us and a little toward CF. Then, Ernie, who's a diehard Cleveland Indians fan, tried to get me to agree that I'd like to trade half the Cub team for outfielder Alex Escobar, who at one time was a top prospect, but hit .211 this year with no power and recently had foot surgery and is out for the year.
Um, Ernie? The Cubs are desperate for offense, but not that desperate.
Good news today about Mark Prior -- I listened to the post-game show on the radio driving home and Jim Hendry came into the room and said that all tests -- MRI, bone scan, etc. -- were negative on Prior, he is NOT going on the DL, and will apparently have his normal between-start throwing tomorrow (he felt good today) and if it goes well he will make his turn on Tuesday. Hendry likened what Prior feels in his elbow to "shin splints", and you can repair such things with rest. Thus, if missing one start would do it, then Glendon Rusch can take Prior's turn on Tuesday.
A couple things from yesterday's game: first, it was "Classic Rock Night", featuring Journey (minus their lead singer, Steve Perry, who's left the group, so why bother?). They botched the National Anthem -- I guess they were trying to emulate Jimi Hendrix' version from Woodstock, but it sounded out of tune, awful, and disrespectful, the worst version I've ever heard.
I got a couple of e-mails about Craig Counsell reaching base yesterday on catcher's interference, first from Mike Johnson:
During the telecast, [Steve] Stone said that it was the 3rd time this year Counsell has reached base on catcher interference. Coincidence? Probably not. Although looking at the replay, Barrett probably would have interfered with just about any left handed batter. His glove was letter-high, over the back-half of the plate when Counsell's bat hit the glove.
And, from John Aldrich, who as a Diamondbacks fan has seen Counsell play quite a bit over the years:
While it is true that Counsell's batting stance has him holding his bat high above his head, if you notice, as the pitch is being delivered, he brings the bat WAY back and then swings in a wide sweeping motion. With this exaggerated bringing of the bat back, he has always been prone to being involved in catcher's interference plays. He probably leads the majors in them. It is almost a part of his offensive arsenal.
In fact, if the catcher is not paying attention, he is liable to get hit in the back of the head with Counsell's bat! I actually saw this happen once a couple of years ago.
Today, Counsell was hit in the knee by a Clement pitch and had to leave the game. I hate to see players get hurt, but it wouldn't bother me a bit if Counsell had to miss the rest of this series.
Finally, here's the Greg Maddux Watch, as he goes tomorrow for win #297. Barring rainouts, injuries or other changes to the rotation, he'll start the following games:
Thursday, July 22 vs. Cincinnati
Tuesday, July 27 at Milwaukee
Sunday, August 1 vs. Philadelphia -- this would be his first shot at #300, IF he can win the other three
Saturday, August 7 at San Francisco
First priority -- win tomorrow.
Finally, head on over to Christian Ruzich's blog The Cub Reporter and add your comments to his well-written Open Letter to Randy Johnson.