I was hoping this would be a happy recap after the Cubs made a stirring ninth-inning rally to win, but instead it's another frustrating loss, 2-1 to the Cardinals, the third loss in a row, wasting a fine outing by Ryan Dempster.
Dempster allowed only six hits and two runs in seven good innings of work, lowering his ERA to a still-too-high 4.40, but the Cubs could do nothing against Chris Carpenter and three St. Louis relievers.
Only when the strange-bearded Ryan Franklin (that beard is the strangest one in baseball, even weirder than Chad Gaudin's) entered the game in the ninth inning, did the Cubs generate any offense. For those of you who have been on the Micah Hoffpauir bandwagon, I think I'm about to join you. He drove in the only Cubs run last night, lashing the first pitch he saw into right field for an RBI single. This is exactly the kind of thing I wasn't sure the Hoff could do -- fill a role where he'd come up to bat once a game and have to produce -- but he's showing he can handle it, and Paul Sullivan writes that Lou may be considering some lineup changes:
But after three straight losses and a grand total of one run over their last 18 innings, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said he was close to making some changes, including sitting Lee and catcher Geovany Soto.
What can be done about the Cubs' offense?
"I don't know. I don't know," Piniella replied. "I've thought about it a lot. Believe me, while everybody is sleeping, I'm up. I've got to be as patient as I possibly can to give these people ample opportunities to shake out of it. But sooner or later ...
"You know, [Micah] Hoffpauir is hitting .300, and [Koyie] Hill is hitting .300. Sooner or later, I mean, I've got to do something. Let's hope these guys start hitting the way they're capable of and we can mix and match and rest our people and so forth. But gosh, it's a struggle at times for us."
It wouldn't hurt to shake up the lineup tonight to try to salvage one game in this series. (Soto, for his part, had a good at-bat in the ninth inning last night, finally drawing a walk.) And it also wouldn't hurt if Milton Bradley didn't make embarrassing baserunning mistakes as he did in the fourth inning last night. Chris Duncan made a nice, but not spectacular, catch on Mike Fontenot's drive with Milton on first and nobody out. Unfortunately, Bradley had already rounded second base and was doubled off first -- it looked like he still hasn't completely recovered from the hamstring problems of April. Bradley took full responsibility:
He referred to the base-running gaffe as a "mental lapse" and conceded he didn't pick up on his coach, or the ball, while running on a 3-1 pitch.
"It's inexcusable," he said. "I don't like making mistakes. I'm a perfectionist. When you're not swinging the bat, you can't make base-running errors."
When you're not scoring runs, there's little margin for errors like this. Maybe the Cubs would have scored in that inning; at the time the game was still scoreless. And in the bottom of the fourth, Albert Pujols hustled to a double on what looked like an ordinary, routine single to left field.
Fortunately, it is still early in the season -- we haven't even reached the one-quarter mark yet -- and the Cubs will get Carlos Zambrano back in the rotation tomorrow at San Diego. In the meantime... please don't get swept by the Cardinals.