... er, I mean UGLY, and having avoided the Sean Marshall puns for last night's game, I figured I'd get one in on the Marlins' rookie 2B's name, even though his contributions to Florida's extremely ugly 7-5 win over the Cubs this afternoon weren't that large -- a walk, a run scored, and a double.
Many of you have seen minor league games and seen how sloppily played they can get. That's what this game was like -- a Double-A game. And in fact, of the thirty-one players who participated in today's game, more than half -- sixteen of them -- played in the minor leagues at some point last season.
There was a ball thrown halfway to Addison Street, allowing a Cub run to score. There were fourteen walks, allowing the game to slog on for three hours and twenty-nine minutes. And the key mistake, a dropped fly ball that John Mabry lost in the sun with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, cost the Cubs this eminently winnable game.
So many bad things, where to begin? Angel Guzman, making his major-league debut, wasn't terrible... but he wasn't very good, either. He threw a Prior-like 87 pitches in five innings, issuing four walks. But Marlins starter Scott Olsen wasn't much better -- 84 pitches in HIS five innings, and he was taken out of the game with a one-hitter going!
That one hit was an Aramis Ramirez home run. Ramirez, in fact, had the only two Cub hits until the eighth, when they tried to claw their way back after the disastrous Mabry drop, with the benefit of... two more Marlins walks, these issued by Franklyn German, who had been part of that three-team deal between the A's, Tigers and Yankees that involved people like Jeff Weaver, Jeremy Bonderman and... Carlos Pena, who we were discussing as a possible Cubs acquisition in this diary just yesterday and today.
See how everything ties together? James Crockett, fellow Cubs Blog Army soldier from Just North Of Wrigley Field, joined us today and was lauding the praises of Pena. As I wrote in the aforementioned diary, I would absolutely acquire him if the Yankees do indeed release or waive him next week, IF it can be done at the cost of zero players. James also informed all of us that he is leaving Chicago for his old home in Seattle next week, having been offered a good job somewhere in the food service division at Safeco Field.
Anyway, I digress. The key to the game wasn't really Mabry's drop, although that let in two runs... the key was Scott Williamson coming in and walking the bases loaded (in addition to throwing a wild pitch and committing a balk) just before the offending fly ball. The dropped ball was hit off Bob Howry, who did his job -- got two players to have at-bats that should have resulted in outs. Had Mabry caught it, one run would have scored, and the next hitter, Hanley Ramirez, was called out on strikes. That would have made the score 4-3, and would have resulted in the two runs the Cubs got back in the bottom of the inning, giving them the lead.
Phil kept pointing out to me that there are four (actually, now five, with the Brewers' win over the Braves today, completing a series sweep over Atlanta - their first ever over the Braves) NL Central teams over .500, and asked me if I were concerned that the Cubs were fourth. Not at all, I said; first of all, they were at the time (during the game) 1.5 games out of first place, two now, at worst 2.5 at the end of today. That's nothing in April; the 1980 Cubs won a remarkable game on April 22, 1980 on a last-of-the-ninth grand slam, and two weeks later were 11-6 and in first place. That team lost 98 games. Dave said, and I agree, that there are no dominant teams in the National League this year -- not even the Astros, off to a good start, or the Mets, who dominated the first two weeks. Thus, if the Cubs can stay close till midseason when Derrek Lee and maybe one or two injured starting pitchers return, a wild card might be eminently possible.
But today's game was Uggla. Or ugly. Or any way you want to put it, not a game any of us will press in a memory book, although with the bright sunshine, it was a nice (albeit long -- one of those days you say, "You can time this game with a calendar") afternoon to spend at the ballpark. We have learned that at this time of year, the sun ducks behind the LF foul pole flags around game time, and then hides briefly behind the light tower before breaking out in the just-north-of-west position it holds a month post-equinox, and on a day when the temperature held in the mid-50's, that required jacket-donning and shedding on a frequent basis, though Jeff stubbornly sat there in his shorts. Jon, who usually wears shorts when it gets above 50, showed up in jeans and shocked all of us when he put his sweatshirt back on as the shade came by.
Other notes: I decided, just for grins, to ride the elevator up from one of my men's room runs. It's there primarily for wheelchair users, but is not restricted; no one was in there, so I rode up by myself. No big deal, just wanted to see what it was like. And Ron came by from his own LF perch to report that he had spent an inning watching the game from the knothole, which is allowed, and said it was a pretty nice view. I shall have to try this myself one of these days...
Finally, I should note that my sources confirmed that Michael Barrett -- who wasn't likely going to play today anyway -- did have x-rays on his finger after the headfirst slide into 2nd last night. Fortunately, they were negative. That's all the Cubs would need, to lose his offensive production. I swear, all players should be prohibited from headfirst slides. Also, here is another laudatory article about our favorite forty-year-old righthander. (Greg Maddux, in case you couldn't guess.)
Onward, to the Brewers' arrival this weekend, which perhaps even more than playing the Cardinals, will show the direction of this division -- because the Brewers always give the Cubs fits. Greg Maddux will begin the festivities on Friday.