Eight Bad Pitches: Cubs 2, Astros 4

Len Kasper said it best, right after Hunter Pence hit the grand slam that held up for Houston's 4-2 win over the Cubs last night. It wasn't "one bad pitch", as is often said when an opposing player hits a key home run.

In the case of last night's game, it was the eight pitches out of the strike zone that Ryan Dempster threw in the Houston fourth inning after Miguel Tejada had led off the inning with a double.

They were the only two walks Dempster issued -- not terrible for a six-inning outing -- but that was the difference in the game, all six runs scoring as the result of home runs; Aramis Ramirez had hit a ball way up on the outfield facing to give the Cubs a two-run lead in the top of the fourth inning. This has been Dempster's problem throughout his career -- too many walks.

The Cubs didn't leave too many men on base last night -- only seven -- but did leave RISP in the 5th, 7th and 9th, and the 7th was the inning that they should have gotten to Chris Sampson and Doug Brocail, who relieved Sampson, because in that inning there were two singles and a walk. Unfortunately, in between the two singles, Jim Edmonds hit into a double play, and then after Micah Hoffpauir reached base for the first time in his brief ML career by drawing a walk, Brocail was summoned and he struck out Alfonso Soriano to end the inning. Edmonds is now 2-for-12 as a Cub with a walk, two strikeouts, and one DP ball. He'll have to do better than this to justify the move.

Funny game, baseball. Soriano and Lance Berkman came into this series as the two hottest hitters in the game. They are a combined 1-for-15 in this series so far.

Good news: Jose Ascanio, just recalled, made his Cubs debut, and despite walking two Astros, managed to get through two innings without allowing any runs. The Astros out-walked the Cubs four to two last night, and that, essentially, was that. I have confidence that Sean Gallagher, who has thrown well in both his starts so far, can beat Houston and Shawn Chacon (who has the unusual distinction of making nine starts this year so far, all no-decisions) and win the series tonight.

More good news: Derrek Lee had three more hits last night and seems to be coming out of his slump. There was some talk about starting Hoffpauir tonight to give D-Lee two days off in a row, but maybe now he doesn't need that.

Finally, the controversy over Geovany Soto's HR Monday night (was it really officially "outside" the park based on ground rules) prompted a major meeting of MLB umpiring and other officials early Tuesday:

In response to a somewhat controversial call made during Monday's series opener between the Cubs and Astros, officials reworked one of the yellow lines that indicates a home run, located just to the right of the "bmcsoftware" sign above the visitors' bullpen in left-center.

Bob Watson, MLB vice president rules and on-field operations, called it a more "umpire-friendly" line, which will better differentiate between a home run and a ball in play.

A yellow wood board that served as a home run indicator was removed, and in its place is a simple yellow painted line, drawn on the inside part of the wall.

Isn't this a wacky ballpark?

via chicago.cubs.mlb.com

The Cubs maintained their two-game division lead when the Cardinals lost late last night in San Diego. That's really all there is to say -- sometimes, you just get beat. Until later today.
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