Bad Habits, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Phillies, Saturday 5/12, 2:55 CT

One thing is for sure.

This Cubs team isn't going anywhere if their entire offense consists of solo home runs.

That's been most of the offense the last three days. Wednesday, Alfonso Soriano's HR was the only run; thankfully, Jason Marquis threw a shutout. Thursday, Aramis Ramirez and Angel Pagan hit solo HR (and the only other runs scored on a two-run pinch-HR from Michael Barrett), and last night, Ramirez and Soriano were the solo HR hitters.

This is a bad habit that not only was something that last year's Cub team had, but Cub teams over the last several seasons had. Meanwhile, before last night the Atlanta Braves had not homered in 72 innings -- yet won five out of six.

A further lesson could be learned about this from last night's 7-2 loss to the Phillies, too. The Phillies' offense consisted primarily of home runs, too, two by Pat Burrell, who had a grand total of one before last night. However, the difference is that they had men on base when these HR were hit -- and disturbingly, not from hits (Rich Hill gave up only two hits other than the HR), but from two walks and Chase Utley being hit by a pitch (Utley's already been hit 12 times this year, a pace that would get him to 56 for the season, which would break the single-season record -- 51 by Hughie Jennings, that has stood since 1896. The NL record is 50, set by Ron Hunt in 1971). Burrell's first HR was a two-run shot, the second a three-run job. Meanwhile, when the Cubs have had runners on base other than by long ball, they've either stranded them (eight last night, the nine that Jacque Jones left by himself in the 1-0 win on Wednesday) or hit into double plays. Worst of all, the Burrell HR came after the two solo Cub HR had given the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

I must confess that I was nodding out in my chair watching this game -- not because of the Cub offense, though that would have been forgivable, just because I've been so tired anyway due to working 12 days in a row the last couple of weeks -- so I missed a fair amount of the carnage, waking up only when the Burrell HR were hit. I guess I didn't miss too much.

Fortunately, the Brewers' winning streak ended last night with a 5-4 loss to the Mets, so the deficit remains at seven games in the bizarre NL Central, where Milwaukee is the only team over .500. I think it's imperative that the Cubs trim at least two games off this lead before they return to Wrigley Field next Friday for the brief three-game homestand against the White Sox, if they intend to seriously contend the rest of this season.

And, after jumping through hoops to reschedule the 4/11 snowout on 6/11, that might now cause yet another gametime change:

Players for the Cubs and Houston Astros wanted to make up their April 11 postponement with a split doubleheader at Wrigley Field on either July 15 or Sept. 2, but television considerations led to the decision to instead reschedule it for June 11 (7:05 p.m.) on a mutual day off, Cubs player rep Will Ohman said.

The Cubs are playing an ESPN game in Atlanta the night before, and Ohman said the team could request that that game be moved up to a daytime start to ease the quick turnaround.

Ohman also said the Cubs' game against the Cardinals that was postponed two weeks ago because of the death of pitcher Josh Hancock likely will be made up as part of a doubleheader the next time the Cubs go to St. Louis, July 24-26.

Other notes: I shouldn't have mentioned the streaks that Derrek Lee had in sight in last night's game thread -- that was the kiss of death, as Lee's on-base streak ended at 32 games with an 0-for-4.

Time for him to start a new streak today, and maybe the Cubs can change some of the bad habits they've begun over the last three games.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Angel Guzman
A. Guzman
Cubs
vs. Freddy Garcia
F. Garcia
Phillies
0-0 W-L 1-2
2.19 ERA 5.33
11 SO 21
3 BB 6
0 HR 3
vs. Phi -- vs. Cubs
There was a time when I was a big proponent of bringing Freddy Garcia to the Cubs, and last week Garcia proved that he might have fit right in with a pitching staff that gets injured in hot tubs and moving barbecue grills, when he suffered a bizarre minor injury in San Francisco:
[Sunday] during batting practice at AT&T Park, he ran into a maintenance cart that had stopped unexpectedly on the warning track and suffered a bruised left shin ...

The cart had stopped, ironically, because Ryan Howard had lofted a ball to center field and the driver wanted to avoid getting hit.

Garcia, not expecting a cart on the warning track, simply pursued the ball and ran into it. The few thousand fans in the park who watched it happen gasped.

To add insult to injury, Garcia had to be carted to the visitors' dugout by the same cart that caused the injury. He hopped down the dugout steps, avoiding putting pressure on his left leg.

You think that's weird? It gets even stranger: a day after this injury, Garcia had his best start of the season, going six innings and allowing only two runs against the Diamondbacks, getting a no-decision in a 4-3 Phillies loss. Garcia loves the sight of Cubs uniforms; he is 4-0 lifetime against the Cubs, with a 0.60 ERA, going back to 2002 when he was with the Mariners. Time to change all that today; look for Cliff Floyd to get a start, as he is 2-for-4 lifetime vs. Garcia, both hits being HR.

Angel Guzman's best start of 2006 came against the Phillies last August 23 at Wrigley Field; he threw six innings of four-hit, one-run ball. The 2006 Cubs, being who they were, lost anyway. Guzman also threw a scoreless inning of relief in a 6-2 loss at Philadelphia last September 20.

The Cubs, quite simply, cannot afford to lose this game and consider themselves contenders.

This game's on Fox. Again. The other two games are Twins/Tigers and Angels/Rangers. Thus, you are probably out of luck if you live in Michigan, Minnesota, parts of Iowa and Wisconsin, the Dakotas, most of the West Coast, Texas and some other parts of the South. The Cub game ought to be on in Illinois and Indiana and most of the Northeast. But only "checking your local listings" will tell you for sure.

UPDATE [2007-5-12 9:39:18 by Al]: Added from the comments, this Fox Sports page will tell you which game is televised in your market. Thanks to BCB reader KyCubsFan for posting this.

MLB.com Mediacenter

MLB.com Gameday (2007 version)

MLB.com Gameday (2006 version)

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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