The Same Old Song, Part 12,769, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Phillies, Thursday 8/24, 1:20 CT

What more can be said than this:

The Cubs played fairly well last night but lost anyway, 2-1 to the Phillies. As Mike & I have said to each other so frequently, this team has absolutely no margin for error, and so each and every missed opportunity, each and every mental mistake -- and I'm not even talking about actual errors that show up in a boxscore, of which the Cubs had none last night, though Freddie Bynum could have been charged with one on Shane Victorino's bouncer up the middle in the first inning -- likely means the difference in the game.

It did last night again; this time Bynum was the culprit, getting himself picked off after singling to start the seventh inning with the Cubs trailing 1-0. Is that Bynum attempting to please his manager's desire for him to be "aggressive"? If so, it probably cost the Cubs the game, because after an Aramis Ramirez strikeout, Jacque Jones hit a double which would have scored Bynum easily. The scoreboard operators, who attempt to find anything good to post about each player during their second at-bat, were reduced to saying of Bynum, "175 Career Stolen Bases (Minor League)". What's next? Saying "Likes Animals"?

Ronny Cedeno -- you too. Cedeno didn't make any really bad misplays last night, but his 0-for-3, including two strikeouts, dropped his numbers to .246/.271/.333. He's got five HR, and I said to Jeff when I saw that on the scoreboard, "Five? I can't remember more than two." In last night's game thread comments, Cedeno's first full year was compared to Khalil Greene's. Sorry, but no. Greene hit 15 HR and had a .349 OBA; the comparison was being made on the basis of errors, which is just plain wrong. Sorry, Ronny -- you're not even going to be a useful bench player.

With the wind howling and swirling all over the place last night due to thunderstorms that never did hit the city proper (but apparently caused some significant damage in northwest Indiana), we all knew it was going to be a low-scoring game. What no one could have predicted was that two of the three runs would come on solo HR; one by Ryan Howard -- and come on, the guy came into the series with 43 HR, it would have been nearly impossible to hold him down for all four games -- and one by Matt Murton, who ought to play every single day the rest of the year, so that the club can evaluate whether he should stay as the starting LF next year, or whether they should (as I think they should) go after a big power bat for that position.

Angel Guzman's numbers look good from last night, and he was praised by Dusty Baker, but I dunno. He threw 55 strikes out of 95 pitches, and note that his opponent, Brett Myers, also gave up only one run and four hits, but threw only 14 more pitches in two further innings.

It was that same old song -- I hate to use that tired old cliche, but it was -- that has beaten the Cubs so often in recent years. Two out, no one on base, and then whoever's on the mound blows up. Last night, it was Bob Howry, who walked Abraham Nunez in that situation.

That's virtually inexcusable. Nunez is a decent ballplayer -- he filled in well for the Cardinals last year while Scott Rolen was out -- but he's got a .270 OBA!! And he's got a .269 SLG!! How can you nibble around the corners with a guy like that? If this is how Larry Rothschild counsels a pitcher like Bob Howry to approach hitters, he has to go. Yesterday.

Then Joe Thurston, who used to be a Dodger prospect but who hasn't pitched in the majors in two years, singled, and Jimmy Rollins pounded a double, for a run. Mark, who was with me last night, was convinced that Phil Nevin would be the hero in a Howry-blown game, as he was last Saturday, but alas, even though Nevin did get sent in to pinch-hit for Bynum, he popped out foul.

It got to the point that scoreboard-watching became more interesting, at times. We slowly watched the Royals blow their 10-run first inning against the Indians; when the Cubs game ended it was 13-9 KC, but I said to Mike, "The Indians are going to win this game." And they did, scoring four runs in the ninth -- all of them after two were out -- and two in the tenth, and won 15-13.

Onward. The Cubs have Z to try to avoid the sweep this afternoon. That is, if it stops raining.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
C. Zambrano
Cubs
vs. Cole Hamels
C. Hamels
Phillies
13-5 W-L 6-6
3.34 ERA 4.40
173 SO 103
98 BB 33
19 HR 13
vs. Phi -- vs. Cubs
The Cubs have, including today, thirty-six games remaining. With Z starting today, he should get eight more starts. He'll have to win seven of them to get to 20 wins -- which is about the only way he'll get Cy Young consideration, given how bad the Cubs are.

In fact, Mike & I were discussing last night the fact that the NL record for the fewest wins for a pitcher leading the league is 18. That might fall this year. No NL pitcher yet has more than 13 (Zambrano, Steve Trachsel, Brad Penny, Jason Marquis, Brandon Webb and Aaron Harang).

With the quick turnaround to a day game, this post will be both the recap and the open game thread. Hamels, Philly's hot rookie of the moment, has never faced the Cubs, and has lowered his ERA from 5.98 to 4.40 in his last four startts. Z has made five career starts against the Phillies (2-2, 2.83). With the rain in the area this morning, neither team is likely to take batting practice.

Finally, with Angel Guzman in the game, the bullpen sentry duty fell to Roberto Novoa last night. Guzman needs to work with him. Several balls got past Novoa.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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