All the on-field personnel last night, including the umpires, wore red caps with the team logos in stars-and-stripes. This was done to honor those who have served and are serving our country on Memorial Day.
It had the effect of making all teams look like the Nationals, and the Cubs decided to honor that by playing like the team from Washington that has the majors' worst record at 13-31 despite ranking third in the NL with 223 runs scored.
The Cubs scored more runs last night (eight) than they had in last six games combined (five). They drew seven walks and had ten hits; Milton Bradley homered and doubled and Ryan Theriot had doubles in his first three at-bats. However, the pitching staff was a notch short of horrific, allowing the Pirates 18 hits and 5 walks. The 10-8 Cubs loss to the Pirates, which ended with the tying run actually on the bases, could have been worse; the Bucs left 13 men on base.
It got so bad that Lou actually allowed David Patton in the game (although Lou had Angel Guzman warming up at the same time Patton was in the bottom of the 7th and had the Cubs managed to tie the game or take the lead in that inning, Guzman probably would have come in). Patton, after an understandably shaky start (who wouldn't, after sitting for 16 days?), threw two scoreless innings and kept the Cubs in the game. But the management of this roster would have had the Cubs at a serious disadvantage had the game gone to extra innings; Derrek Lee had been sent home with his flu continuing (after having originally been in the starting lineup, he was scratched again), Carlos Marmol is in New York where his wife is about to give birth (he won't be back till tomorrow), and Bobby Scales (who was also originally supposed to start but caught the bug that D-Lee has) and Carlos Zambrano had been used as pinch-hitters. Z, for his part, had a pretty good at-bat before striking out. Koyie Hill was on deck to bat for Patton when the game ended; in extra innings, the Cubs would have had only Guzman and Kevin Gregg in the bullpen and Hill, Kosuke Fukudome and Mike Fontenot on the bench, yet another testament to how poorly this roster has been constructed.
It's real easy to yell, "DFA! DFA!" after a loss like this. But that's not the answer, of course, and the old saying "a team is never as good as it looks on a long winning streak and never as bad as it looks on a long losing streak" applies here. The team showed signs of life offensively last night -- Geovany Soto, in particular, had good at-bats and two hits, and I want to give credit to Alfonso Soriano, who often hacks at the first pitch he sees in a game. Instead, he had a 12-pitch at-bat and walked, one of two walks; Pirates starter Paul Maholm threw 34 pitches in the first inning. That should have had them on the ropes, but Ryan Dempster suddenly lost the strike zone in the third when he hit a batter and issued three walks. That resulted in two Pittsburgh runs; it could have been more, except for a nifty 1-2-3 inning-ending double play.
Now that Patton has actually thrown in a game -- and well -- maybe the Cubs have another option with him. You can trade a Rule 5 guy to another team (not necessarily the one he came from), as long as the receiving team keeps him on their 25-man roster the rest of the year. Perhaps the Cubs can find a team (Washington? Cleveland? Oakland?) that would be willing to do that, in exchange for a prospect they can actually keep. With illness cutting down Cubs left and right, they could use Jake Fox on the bench. They could have used him last night, in fact, to bat for Aaron Miles in the last of the 9th after Pirates closer Matt Capps had to leave the game when a ball hit by Soto caromed off him and the Bucs were forced to use lefty Sean Burnett to finish up.
By that time it had started to rain again, softly, putting a wet coda on a long night of failure (the first three innings took an hour and 20 minutes and the 3:36 game time was the second-longest of the season). It might as well have rained all night, and at this point I'm kind of hoping it rains all day and night today, too. I figure that every game rained out now is a game Aramis Ramirez can play in during the second half of the season.
The Z-list celebrity Mr. T "sang" Take Me Out To The Ball Game -- screechingly badly -- during the 7th-inning stretch. Can we put this "tradition" to rest now? The presence of Mr. T, though, gives rise to this idea: Lou seemed pretty exasperated in his postgame press conference -- Mr. T, or at least his TV-character persona, would be interesting in the dugout (if he could keep from getting ejected from every game he managed).
Finally, a bit of history was made last night by the Pirates' Freddy Sanchez when he singled in the 9th; that gave him six hits in a 9-inning game, the 66th time in baseball history that feat has been accomplished since 1900 (it was done several dozen more times in the pre-1900 National League). Among the players who have done this are Soriano (with Texas in 2004); the only Cub to do it is Sammy Sosa on July 2, 1993 at Colorado. (Don Kessinger did it in a 10-inning game on June 17, 1971.)
Me, I'd rather have had a win. Maybe tonight, weather permitting.