The Cubs lost to the Nationals 6-0 this afternoon, and looked bad doing it.
Now, you can read this a number of ways. The "sky is falling" folks will say that the Cubs have gone back to their "old, losing ways". I, however, choose to see this as a blip on the radar; maybe they all stayed out partying too late last night, who knows.
One thing that is disturbing is the seeming regression of Rich Hill to HIS old, bad ways. He's either lost the ability to spot his curveball, or he's tipping his pitches, or both -- that's likely the reason that he served up a fat pitch to Dmitri Young which Young smacked for a grand slam that put the game out of reach. Until then, at 2-0, I still thought the Cubs might get to Matt Chico and come back and win.
Hill did throw 72 strikes in 104 pitches, and only walked one, with six strikeouts. But he seemingly loses focus at the worst times to lose focus. Time for him to sit down with Lou, or Larry, or both, in the video room and see what's been going on in his last five starts, where he's seen his ERA jump more than a run, from 2.71 to 3.81 after today.
So before I head out to a holiday party (enjoy yours, if you're going!), I wanted to say a bit about Pat Hughes and Dave Otto. I was listening to the game on the radio for a while, and Pat started talking about how teams almost always played doubleheaders on July 4 -- there was, in fact, a note in the Cubs' media notes this morning about the Cubs having more wins on July 4 than on any other calendar date. To which I say, "Duh!" Since July 4 is the only specific date on the calendar where DH were played for decades (yes, they played on Memorial Day and Labor Day, too, but those dates have migrated over the years), they've obviously played more games on July 4 than on any other calendar date, thus more wins.
Anyway, Hughes started mentioning famous July 4 games, including Dave Righetti's no-hitter on July 4, 1983, and this bizarre Mets/Braves game on July 4, 1985, which went 19 innings, was six hours and ten minutes of playing time and had over two hours of rain delays, and was tied up twice by the Braves in the bottom of extra innings -- the second time on a HR in the 18th inning by pitcher Rick Camp, who was a career .074 hitter, and then about 10,000 fans stuck around for the postgame fireworks that began at 4 am.
And then Otto piped up and said that the Cubs had played a DH on July 4, 1994; that it had ended around 1 am; that he couldn't remember if it had been scheduled or if it was a makeup; and that he had pitched in relief that day.
Well, I haven't been much of a fan of Otto's work, so I was skeptical of this claim.
But darned if he wasn't exactly right. There was indeed a doubleheader at Wrigley Field on July 4, 1994; the Cubs split it, winning the first game 4-3 on a last-of-the-9th rally started by a player named Zambrano -- that's Eddie Zambrano, a spare-part outfielder who only lasted the one year, and losing the second game 4-2 in 15 innings; it's my recollection, although it doesn't say so in either box score, that there was a torrential rainstorm on the north side of Chicago that day, delaying the start of the second game a couple of hours and forcing that (approximate) 1 am finish that Otto described on the radio today. And for his participation, Otto was also right -- he threw two scoreless innings in relief of starter Jim Bullinger.
I'm still not crazy about Otto as a game analyst, but give him credit for this 13-year-old memory.
Finally, maybe it's time for Derrek Lee to drop his appeal and serve his suspension. He just doesn't look sharp and maybe a few days' rest will help. He can play in the All-Star Game as a sort of exhibition tuneup for returning a week from this weekend at home.
Anyway, today wasn't a good day -- but win tomorrow and you've accomplished what I thought the Cubs could do in this series, win three out of four. Happy Fourth to all.