Hey Z! Next time you're pissed at yourself for striking out, don't break the bat over your knee!!!
Seriously. It was, I suppose, sort of funny at the time and provoked a huge cheer from the sellout crowd of 41,686 (largest of the year so far), but Carlos Zambrano, who didn't have his best stuff in the first four innings, completely lost it in the fifth after he came out following the bat-breaking episode. Three hits and two walks later, Lou had to take him out of the game, and thank heavens for Michael Wuertz, Scott Eyre (who was so anxious to get into the game that he started trotting in from the bullpen at the beginning of the 7th, even though Lou hadn't called for him) and Jon Lieber for throwing four innings of two-hit, five-strikeout relief and keeping the game close.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, as Carlos Marmol was touched for a single that -- once again -- might have been handled by Ronny Cedeno at SS, but Ryan Theriot, despite a great effort, couldn't throw Freddy Sanchez out, and then Nate McLouth hit a two-run HR that was the difference in the Pirates' 7-6 win over the Cubs this afternoon, the first time the Pirates have beaten the Cubs since September 9, 2007 in Pittsburgh, ten straight wins for the Cubs over the Pirates; that's the longest such Cub-over-Pirate streak in 117 years (since 1890-91), on a sunny Saturday when the wind shifted from strong-blowing-out-to-RF, to strong-blowing-in-over-RF, which may have prevented Derrek Lee's fly ball from going out in the last of the 9th.
I told Mike after the Pirates took the lead 5-4 in the fifth that it'd be up to the white-hot-en-fuego-any-superlative-you-can-think-of Alfonso Soriano to win the game, and damned if he didn't nearly do just that. In a homestand where Soriano's hit virtually everything in sight, today was his best game of all -- 5-for-5 with two HR and two doubles (13 total bases); he's now 20-for-37 (.541) with 5 doubles, 7 HR and 15 RBI in the nine games played so far in this longest homestand of the year, raising his average to .295 (coming in off the last road trip, he was hitting .188).
And we know that just as quickly, he could turn around and have a bad stretch, so you ride this streak as long as it lasts. Soriano still seems to be running slowly; his ground-rule double into the ivy in the 9th inning would probably have only been a single if it had exited the ivy and been fielded by McLouth, because he rounded first base very slowly. That would have prevented him from scoring on Ryan Theriot's single, not that it really mattered for the final result. Derrek Lee's fly ball looked, off the bat, as if it might make it for an amazing walkoff win, but Xavier Nady caught it just short of the warning track.
Today -- the Cubs just got beat. There's no shame in being beaten by McLouth, who is one of maybe three decent players on the Pirates and who is off to a torrid start himself (his 36 RBI now rank second in the National League). After Z's meltdown, the Cubs seemed to kind of shrink back and Zach Duke, who had been hashed around pretty good in the first four innings (eight hits, four runs), retired the last eight Cubs he faced. Tyler Yates, his relief, had Soriano as his first opposing hitter and he gave Alfonso his 2nd HR of the day. Soriano's so zoned in that virtually all of his HR have landed right near our section -- one yesterday just to our right, close to the foul pole, that second one today just to our left, to section 303 across the aisle in the last row.
It might have been a bit different, too, had Geovany Soto been safe on Mark DeRosa's double in the third inning. It seemed the right call at the time, leading 3-1, to send Soto, even though he's probably the slowest man in the starting lineup. Replays appeared to confirm that he was out. Had he scored, the score would have neen 4-1 and maybe Duke gets yanked right then and there.
On things like this, ballgames can turn. We'll get 'em tomorrow.
Two final notes: I thought having Kosuke Fukudome bunt in the 8th was the right call, especially since he usually handles the bat so well; this was a situation where you're not bunting strictly to sacrifice, but perhaps to beat it out. Dome had that in mind, as he attempted to push the bunt past Damaso Marte, but didn't quite get it far enough, and Marte was able to throw the lead runner, Aramis Ramirez, out at second, effectively killing the rally.
And conspicuous by his absence was Jim Edmonds. Rather than double-switching in the 9th when Marmol came in with Mike Fontenot, Lou could have used Edmonds to bat for Marmol in the last of the ninth. Instead, Edmonds stayed anchored to the bench today, and likely will be again tomorrow with yet another lefty, Phil Dumatrait (who the Cubs have beaten like the proverbial drum), going.
Finally, I heard today about some things that are happening to the guy who jumped out of the bleachers last Sunday. He was apparently dared by some of his friends (as is the usual thing in these cases, perhaps fueled by alcohol), and was in the Navy. He's being discharged from the Navy (my guess is, not honorably), and has also lost a chance to qualify for the US Olympic team, and may wind up in prison, convicted of a felony.
That's a lesson, kids. Don't do stuff like that. There are consequences for bad choices. The jumper apparently had everything going for him and has lost a lot due to one bad choice.