SAN FRANCISCO -- Each of the games in this three-game series by the Bay featured outstanding starting pitching. Tuesday, it was Jason Marquis and Tim Lincecum. Last night, curveballers Rich Hill and Barry Zito matched nearly pitch-for-pitch for seven-plus innings.
And today, the Giants' Matt Cain and Carlos Zambrano...
Oh, wait. Someone forgot to tell Carlos he was supposed to pick up where he left off during the rainout on Sunday.
Matt Cain baffled Cub hitters for seven innings, and hit a two-run homer, and the Giants beat the Cubs 4-1, salvaging one game. It doesn't feel as good as two out of three should, because given that your best pitcher is on the mound and you've already won the first two games, you should sweep.
Oh, and read the above paragraph again. Matt Cain hit a two-run homer. What is up with THAT? Cain had a .103 lifetime average coming into this game (and .068 this year, although he also homered two weeks ago vs. the Nationals). So what on Earth is Z doing, walking him in the fourth inning with two out (a walk that loaded the bases and led to two runs when Dave Roberts singled)? Cain had drawn exactly two walks in 132 major league plate appearances before today. And then compounding the mistake by serving him a fat pitch in his next at-bat?
I had a bad feeling about this game when Daryle Ward, who had doubled leading off the second inning, got picked off.
If you didn't see or hear about the game till now, you're shaking your head, too. Daryle Ward got picked off?!?!?!11 We are talking about a man who has had seven career stolen base attempts and been caught six times. What on Earth is he doing straying that far from second base? Naturally, Mark DeRosa followed with a walk, and one out later, Mike Fontenot's double likely would have scored two runs and given the Cubs the lead and maybe put Cain on the ropes. Instead, DeRosa had to hold at third, and Carlos Zambrano, who's not a bad hitter, took three swings, and with each one tried to hit a 900-foot home run, and naturally, struck out.
That was really the only threat the Cubs had, although they did score a run on Jason Kendall's double, followed by Fontenot's single, his second hit of the game. Matt Murton, who is likely to see much less playing time with the acquisition of Craig Monroe from the Tigers, (more on this a little later) then had a horrendous at-bat, swinging at the first pitch and hitting into a double play. Naturally, Ryan Theriot then poked another double into the RF corner; without the DP, that would have scored another run. Instead, Theriot was stranded when Jacque Jones also swung at the first pitch (I was kind of surprised Bruce Bochy didn't go to Steve Kline to face Jones, but it didn't matter, as it turned out) and grounded out.
Can someone please review with this ballclub the value of working the count? The only guy who seems to be doing this on a regular basis is Kendall.
A few props, at least, to the bullpen, today consisting of Scott Eyre, Kerry Wood and Bob Howry, who threw 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out three, in a fruitless attempt to help the Cubs catch up. Wood was hitting 95 on the stadium radar gun, at least, and looked sharp, though my friend Mark, in from Gilroy, sitting near the Cubs bullpen, texted me to say, "Wood looks positively scrawny these days". It's not easy to tell from a distance, but he's clearly lost a LOT of weight. Doesn't seem to have affected his ability to throw hard, though.
Mark (not that Mark, my son Mark) and I sat 30 rows directly behind the plate today (and I had a garlic chicken sandwich from one of the concession stands which was actually quite good), right in front of the press box where I saw Bruce Miles sitting in the front row, so I went by to say hi. He's the one who told me of the Monroe acquisition -- also, that Buck Coats is going to be DFA'd to make room on the 40-man roster. I presume Jake Fox will be optioned to Iowa to make room.
Basically, this is a move to get a more experienced major league hitter and a better outfielder on the roster than Fox. I assume Monroe (who Jim Hendry has been after for quite some time -- he tried to trade for him in the 2005-06 offseason at the time he also was pursuing Jacque Jones) will play vs. all LHP, either in LF until Alfonso Soriano returns or in RF after Soriano does come back. Monroe had a terrible year for the Tigers, hitting only .222/.264/.373 and striking out 94 times in 372 AB, and this after hitting 28 HR with 92 RBI for last year's AL champs. However, in 2007 he is hitting .302/.317/.542 in 96 AB vs. LHP, and in his career he's a .277/.321/.501 hitter vs. LHP, with 35 HR and 49 doubles in 714 AB. Yes, he'll strike out a ton, but he does hit with power and is a decent outfielder who can play all three OF positions (probably best in RF, though).
I received quite a few emails from some of you who wanted to try to meet up during this series. It just wasn't feasible given my time schedule with my kids here... so, perhaps next time, or if any of you make it to Chicago later in the year.
Anyway, the Cubs will maintain first place till tomorrow, as the Brewers have the day off, and if they can go into Phoenix (a place where they've never played that well) and take two of three again, that will be a road trip well played.
And someone please remind Z to get some rest? He's going to have to be on his "A" game next Wednesday against the Brewers.