A Split Decision

I was about ready to write: "the Cubs won two games today, as both halves of the split squad took their respective games".

But they didn't, thanks to Shingo Takatsu, who was wild (issuing a walk, hitting a batter and allowing a game-winning two-run single with two out), and the A's came back and won 7-6 over the Cubs in Phoenix in the bottom of the 9th.

Meanwhile, in the game that most of us saw on WGN, the Cubs defeated the Diamondbacks 4-1 in Mesa, in front of another sellout, 12,782.

I was one of those screaming loudest, "Why sign Jon Lieber?" Today, Lieber showed why. He's been described as a slightly younger, not quite as good version of Greg Maddux, and he pitches exactly that way. Works fast, throws strikes, and today he was really sharp -- allowing only two hits and striking out four in his four innings. If he keeps this up, the Cubs have no worries about a #4 starter (I say "four" because he's surely pitched well enough to be one, but really, after the first go-around in the rotation, does it matter what the rotation position is?).

Felix Pie walked, singled in two runs and scored another. Maybe this will begin to silence the Pie critics. Alfonso Soriano showed no ill-effects from his broken finger, as he had two hits. Sean Gallagher and Bob Howry also threw well; the only Cub pitcher to get touched for a run was Scary Scott Eyre, who had a shaky inning. However, all told Cub pitchers struck out eight, walked none, and scattered seven hits. Not too shabby.

In the road game, Daryle Ward proved that having a sore butt isn't hurting his hitting at all. He had a single, double and home run. Josh Kroeger, who became a particular favorite of some here last summer when he tore up Double-A pitching, hit three doubles today. (Maybe he really can help somewhere down the road.) A man-without-a-position, Jake Fox, had a double and two RBI, and a man who probably doesn't have one either, Matt Murton, doubled, walked, and scored twice. Bad today: Jeff Samardzija had a poor outing, allowing two runs, and Juan Mateo nearly coughed up the lead after Kroeger and Murton had both doubled in runs, and then Takatsu DID cough up the lead. Fortunately, none of those pitchers is going north with the major league club. Rich Harden, who was the A's version of The Employee (golden arm, always injured), got roughed up by the Cub scrubs (seven hits, two walks, four runs in three innings).

Onward to tomorrow (televised on WGN again). Lou Piniella, thinking ahead, has shifted Carlos Zambrano from Monday (when he was scheduled to start again) to Tuesday. Why? Because Monday is against Milwaukee, who Z will face on Opening Day. Lou doesn't want the Brewer hitters to get any extra looks at Z, even in spring training. Smart man.

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