Because wallowing in the detritus of today's 3-2 Cub loss to the Marlins would probably make us feel a lot worse than we already do, I'm going to try to put a positive spin on events, and give you some good news (before discussing the things that brought us to yet another loss to Florida, the 19th in the 31 games between the two teams since the 2003 NLCS).
First, rumor heard today: Kerry Wood may throw an inning in a rehab assignment for Peoria at Wrigley Field on Tuesday (there! if you haven't jumped on the bandwagon to see that game, there's a reason to -- and here I'll use this space to make a shameless plug for the two field box seats I have available, section 110, row 2, price $15 each. Email me using the link on the left sidebar if you want 'em).
Second, Rich Harden threw five outstanding innings again today, allowing only two hits and again, the only run he allowed was on a solo HR. His ten strikeouts give him that many or more in all three of his Cub starts. Now, here's where we begin to discuss the problems: if Harden is to have value to this team, he's going to have to start going deeper into games. In the postgame press conference, Harden said he had been limited today because of the number of pitches he threw in his last outing. But 87 pitches? If you're going to get only five or six innings out of Harden, the bullpen is going to be overtaxed.
Which is why it was gratifying to see Sean Marshall come out of the pen and throw three good innings. Unfortunately, the only hit Marshall allowed was Jeremy Hermida's second HR of the game, which, as the first one off Harden did, tied the game. Marshall also singled and is now 3-for-6 at the plate this year. But he was erased on a double play ball.
Next... well, there is no next. The Cubs couldn't do anything with six Marlins pitchers; the only runs scored on a RBI single by Aramis Ramirez in the first inning and A-Ram's 18th HR of the year in the third. After that, for the next nine innings the Cubs had only three singles, including Marshall's. You can't win this way -- the pitching staff has been very, very good the last three days, giving the Marlins three runs each day. A good team should win with that sort of output from its pitching staff. Now, I think the Cubs are a good team, that happens to be in a hitting slump at the worst possible time. Ramirez seemed to be coming out of it today, but he went out meekly his last three times up. Derrek Lee hit a loud double in the first, but nothing after that. Ryan Theriot was 0-for-5, and so was Alfonso Soriano. Kosuke Fukudome singled twice and walked, which is great, but with a chance to get on base for Daryle Ward (who would have batted for Chad Gaudin), he struck out to end the game. The two teams combined for 31 strikeouts today on one of the nicest weather days of the year, with the wind blowing in (that held Dan Uggla's 10th-inning fly ball in the park, as it turned out simply prolonging the agony). Before the game Dominic DiAngi, the 8-year-old (today being his birthday) who was injured by a foul ball off the bat of Ted Lilly, was invited back to throw out a ceremonial first pitch to Lilly. Lilly stood in front of the plate, but DiAngi's father waved him back behind the plate, at which time the kid threw the ball over Lilly's head. Ted caught it to a loud ovation.
Note: replays showed Mark DeRosa was indeed out at first base (and probably would have been safe had he just run through the play instead of sliding) on the 9th-inning play in which 1B coach Matt Sinatro (who almost never argues) and Lou were both tossed by umpire Rob Drake, a vacation-replacement guy who seems to take pleasure and pride in doing things that will get him on SportsCenter (this crew was at the Cell last week and Drake tossed Ozzie Guillen during that series). Drake had to move to first base when crew chief Gerry Davis was injured in the 2nd inning on a ball that wasn't handled by Marlins catcher John Baker, and Bruce Dreckman moved behind the place.
The bullpen was pretty good today, apart from Marshall allowing the HR to Hermida and Gaudin giving up the winning run in the 12th inning -- on a rally started on a two-out double by Hermida that just landed fair down the left field line. This after one more positive -- Reed Johnson throwing out pinch-hitter Robert Andino at 2B trying to stretch a single into a double. And Scott Eyre still warms up, dutifully, every day, and never gets used by Lou. Question: if Lou's not going to use Eyre, why is he on the team?
One thing that might make you feel better is to look at the "Best Starts By Cub Teams Since 1900" box that I update after every game. Despite going 3-6 since the All-Star break, this team is keeping pace with those other teams (of course, far behind teams like the 1906 and 1907 teams that ran away with the NL pennant). They currently sport precisely the same record that the 1984 team did after 104 games -- 60-44 (in fact, after the 104th game in 1984 -- oddly, a 12-inning loss, 2-1 to the Phillies, the '84 Cubs were 2nd, 1/2 game out of first place). That team got hot in early August and won 96 games. I'm not saying this Cub team will do that, but it's far too early to panic.
Also, I know it doesn't matter. Iknowitdoesn'tmatterBUT -- the W/L record by TV channel is getting a bit ridiculous. For those of you outside of Chicago who only see the Cubs on WGN, not on CSN, you're probably wondering when they ever win. They're now 19-22 on WGN, 34-16 on CSN. (Tomorrow's game is on CSN.)
And so, Jason Marquis needs to eat up some innings tomorrow -- he's actually pretty good at that, having gone at least seven in four of his last six starts -- and more importantly, these guys have to score some runs.
Till then, GO ASTROS GO.