The Cubs lost 5-4 to the Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida, last night, their second loss in a row to the suddenly-powerful team from Tampa Bay.
I know, I know, that's not what you want to talk about this morning, you just want to hear more about Carlos Zambrano's shoulder problem. The answer is that we don't know anything more right now than we did last night; Z is flying back to Chicago today to have a MRI performed. After that we'll know more. Obviously, if Z misses more than a start or two the Cubs will have to suck it up and other pitchers will have to take up the slack, and/or they'll have to make a deal for pitching help (I'm sure this will start the A. J. Burnett rumors going into high gear).
But until we know more, the sky-is-falling crowd will just have to wait until they declare this season "over". The Cubs still maintain a 3 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals -- you think the Cubs are having a tough time, St. Louis just lost two straight to the woeful Royals -- and they did keep battling last night, just as they did the night before; Geovany Soto's 9th-inning HR off Troy Percival cut the Rays' lead to 5-4 and they did get the tying run on base when Mark DeRosa walked, but that was it. Michael Wuertz did a good job of keeping the game within reach till the 9th.
The real issue, then, was DeRosa's drop of a fly ball in the first inning, allowing an unearned run to score. This wound up the difference in the game. Z actually threw pretty well, except for the third inning when the Rays had four straight hits and five hits in all, scoring four runs. The shoulder problem, possibly in evidence since mid-May when Z "slept wrong", didn't get worse, says Z in a quote from the Paul Sullivan article above, till the last batter he faced:
"There was a funny pitch that I felt something in my arm, and then the last pitch I threw in the game to Hinske, I dropped my arm a lot because I couldn't go back to the top of my arm," Zambrano said.
So we wait. And the Cubs may also need outfield help, because Jim Edmonds has a foot problem. Edmonds, hitting .300/.342/.500 in 70 Cub at-bats, has actually been a useful contributor and -- I can't believe I'm writing this -- if he's out for any length of time, the Cubs would miss his bat.
Wondrous and yet strange season, this is. One thing I like: Lou's decision to bat Kosuke Fukudome leadoff while Alfonso Soriano is out -- despite the fact that the normally patient Dome swung at the first pitch he saw last night and grounded out.
A couple quick notes on my tour of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame yesterday. In addition to entire floors dedicated to special exhibits on the Doors and the Beatles movie "Help", the Rock Hall also has a large current exhibit on baseball music entitled "Take Me Out: Baseball Rocks!" It covers music from all musical eras about baseball, from DeWolf Hopper's early 20th Century rendition of "Casey At The Bat", to a forgettable 1969 song recorded by Ernie Banks called "Teamwork", and a large exhibit focusing on the local team, the Indians, and their 1997 AL Championship team. There's a place where you can listen to various baseball songs; Steve Goodman's "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" is included (but no "Go Cubs Go").
I was a bit disappointed when going into, or more correctly, attempting to go into, the actual "Hall of Fame", where all the inductees have their signatures etched into glass. It was roped off and closed -- explanation: the 2008 inductees' names are being etched. Lame explanation, IMO: to close this off for a full day (which is what one worker there said), so that someone like me, who is not likely to return to Cleveland any time soon, can't see it, isn't right. They should do this sort of work in overnight hours.
So, I'm back home in Chicago, ready to gear up for the first Cubs/White Sox series beginning tomorrow, but first, the business of salvaging the final game of the Rays series tonight. Do that and the road trip will be split 3-3, which would be fine with me. Game thread will be up around 3:30 this afternoon.