It was all going just fine.
I was getting ready to say "told you so" to all of you who had dissed Jason Marquis -- who threw a fine six innings today, allowing only four hits, two walks and a run, throwing 82 pitches, 51 for strikes (and that pitch count is a bone to pick with Lou Piniella, I think).
And then the bullpen imploded. And then Michael Barrett, probably tired from the short-turnaround catching a day game after a night game, committed a passed ball that allowed the lead run to score, and isn't this the way it always happens: down only 3-2, figuring there's at least a chance of still tying the game, Scott Eyre came in and made it 5-2 on a Scott Hatteberg HR, and that's the way it ended, 5-2 Reds.
So the Cubs leave Cincinnati losing two out of three -- the reverse of what they did a year ago, when they WON two of the season-opening series against the Reds.
Those of you panicking right now, remember that. I'll grant you, the last three innings did seem as if the Cubs had suddenly forgotten everything Lou taught them in spring training. After Marquis' good ball/strike ratio, the bullpen threw 45 pitches in the seventh and eighth innings -- only half, 23, for strikes. That is, as Jack Brickhouse would have reminded us years ago, a "recipe for disaster", and it happened just that way.
It wasn't the only thing the Cubs did wrong today. Alfonso Soriano got himself picked off. The Cubs left RISP in the first, second, fourth, fifth and eighth innings. Lou boxed himself into a corner by playing the platoon game -- sending Ronny Cedeno in to pinch-hit for pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd.
I'm not that big a believer in the platoon differential myself, although Floyd doesn't hit lefties that well any more -- but why would you ever do this? Yes, Cedeno had a good spring, but read that again:
No, there's something wrong with that picture, and Cedeno popped up. Sigh. Further, let's say the Cubs DO tie the game -- that leaves only Daryle Ward on the bench for extra innings. Lou's got to remember he's not managing an AL team any more.
And then there's the 82-pitch removal of Marquis, who was sailing along -- and his batting order slot hadn't even come up, and Marquis hits well anyway. There's no reason he shouldn't have at least been allowed to start the seventh inning.
But, it is way too early to panic. Games like this happen to every team. How'd you like to be a Cardinals fan right now? They not only got swept in their opening series, they got outscored twenty to two. Think they're panicking?
Well, they sort of are, according to some email I got from Larry at Viva El Birdos. He's worried.
Good, I say. Let's hope they're six games, or maybe more, behind us when they come to Chicago on the 20th.
A couple of random baseball notes: there's still no Extra Innings free preview on my north-side Chicago Comcast cable system. But I am now getting the NHL game schedule screen, which I wasn't before -- and those are the channels that EI has been carried on in the past, so I suspect that's where they will appear -- and inDemand's EI page says a free preview begins later today and continues through Sunday -- but then has no game schedule listed. However, it does appear things are happening.
Also, in checking some Baseball-reference.com information today, I note that they are doing daily updates on the site with 2007 stats! (See, for example, the Cubs team page, which includes games through yesterday.) This is great news for getting up-to-date info on current players, since they have game logs for every active player.
Finally, I received today and am posting here, four photos from BCB reader Molechaser, who attended the two games in Las Vegas last weekend. These are really nice closeups. And if anyone can identify #36 (who appears on no roster anywhere), let us know!
Michael Barrett starting his warmups by playing catch with a mystery guest; Henry Blanco jogging/walking at the beginning of his warmup; Neal Cotts came over to sign autographs for about 10 minutes after finishing his warmups--that's why this picture was shot through the crowd; Carlos Zambrano during his side throwing session on Saturday
(as always, click on thumbnail to view full-size in new browser window. If you are using IE, you may have to click the lower-right corner of the image in the new window to expand it to its full size; in Firefox click anywhere on the image. Photos by Chris Kaiser)