The Cubs lost to the Astros 8-3 today at Wrigley Field, which accomplished the following:
- with seven games remaining in the season, mathematically confirmed what we have known for a few weeks -- that the Cubs are officially out of the 2005 postseason.
- clinched a personal losing season for me; I needed a sweep of the homestand to get to .500, and now the best I can do is 44-46.
Z gave up two solo homers in the first and Houston never gave the lead back, despite Nomar hitting a two-run shot onto Waveland to make it 4-3 in the sixth. Z threw fairly well after that, and at the time the rain stopped the game, the time of game was only an hour and forty minutes, even though it was already the seventh inning. Will Ohman slowed things down after that, replacing Z and throwing an agonizing thirty-two pitches to get the remaining two outs in the seventh, two more runs scoring after he was in the game, one charged to him, one to Z. Z struck out four, so he'll need six more in his one final start of the year next Thursday to reach 200 for the first time.
Patterson, meanwhile, got the ultimate insult when Matt Murton was intentionally walked to load the bases and face him in the second inning. He did actually come through, swinging at the first pitch (what else is new?) and hitting a hard line drive to deep right which went for a sacrifice fly and the Cubs' first run.
Hardly anyone was left anywhere in the park after the rain delay -- I'd guess a few hundred in the bleachers and maybe 5,000 total; the 39,263 announced crowd was about 30,000 strong at the beginning of the game.
The Astros were probably lucky that Roger Clemens didn't throw today due to injury; they never score for him. Ezequiel Astacio pitched what is likely the best game of his young career, giving up only four hits to the Cubs, and escaping more or less undamaged, except for Nomar's home run. It didn't help that the Cubs put three virtual automatic outs in the lineup (Jose Macias, Neifi Perez and Patterson); it was suggested elsewhere here that on days like this Z ought to bat seventh, with Macias and Perez 8th and 9th and Matt Murton leading off, and believe me, I've heard WAY worse lineup ideas than that one.
Finally, before I get to the really interesting stuff, I mentioned this in the comments in the game thread but I'll bring it forward here so everyone can see it -- after Ensberg had tripled, he came up in the 8th with a chance to hit a home run for the cycle (and that would have been what's termed a "natural" cycle -- 1B, 2B, 3B and HR in order) -- and yes, at that point, losing 8-3, I did want to see it, because it was pretty clear that at that point, the Cubs weren't going to come back and win the game.
Everyone took turns playing "Chuck" to give me a hard time about this. Let me tell you, we all haven't laughed out there as hard in a very long time. So, Chuck, thanks -- even though you didn't know it, you provided us with some really fun moments today.
That, and Jeff spending time giving me Hungarian-made Gummi Bears, which he said had "One carb each!" -- actually, they were pretty tasty, but I have to limit myself. Plus, we spent time figuring out which were Astros colors and making other weird sandwiches out of them. No, don't ask. Trust me on this one.
Here's the juicy stuff. My sources are telling me that the Cubs are targeting six players to acquire in the off-season, some of these via free agency, some via trade. Some of these names you've heard before, some not.
- Rafael Furcal. If Furcal is acquired, Ronny Cedeno will be given every opportunity to win the 2B job, as it appears the Cubs will NOT re-sign Todd Walker.
- Bob Howry, now a setup man for the Indians. This'd be a terrific signing -- Howry has been an outstanding reliever the last two years and he simply does not walk people.
- Jacque Jones, as mentioned here yesterday.
- Ivan Rodriguez. Yeah, I know what you're going to say -- two years too late. I-Rod has had a down year, and has two expensive years left on his deal. But the Cubs love his defense, and he could mentor Geovany Soto to take over after his deal is over. This goes along with the next guy...
- Craig Monroe. The Cubs apparently like his bat and think he could hit for more power at Wrigley Field than in Comerica Park. More on this in a moment; the last of the six players will surprise you...
- A. J. Burnett. Yes, Burnett, who almost everyone has going to Baltimore or Washington because his wife's family is from that area. But what I heard is that he's interested in the Cubs because he and Ryan Dempster are very close friends from their Marlins days. I shy away from Burnett due to his injury history; but if the guy could stay healthy, he's a #1 starter. Maybe he could be signed to a contract like Magglio Ordonez', where the Cubs would be protected in case of injury.
The Cubs aren't happy with Michael Barrett's defense, which should be no surprise to anyone; I-Rod has had a down year offensively and really doesn't draw walks at all any more, but between him and Henry Blanco, they'd have a terrific tandem defensively, and I don't just mean throwing out runners, I mean calling a game. What the Cubs could offer, for Rodriguez and Monroe, would be something along the lines of Barrett, Corey Patterson and a pitching prospect or two (maybe Rich Hill or Sergio Mitre). If they then sign Jones, he'd play LF and Monroe RF, and then they'd search for a centerfielder somewhere, which leads me to the final part of this puzzle; that is, that it appears that the Cubs won't re-sign Nomar Garciaparra, to play SS OR LF. That's too bad, in a way, because I do like Nomar and what he can bring to a team if healthy, and I'd hate to see him ramp it up and have an All-Star season somewhere else.
But it may have to be, to re-tool this team to win in 2006.
There's the preview and possibilities; as I often say, "discuss amongst yourselves".