The Wells May Have Run Dry: Cubs Game Essentially Over After Six Batters

The first thought I had after Randy Wells faced six batters this afternoon and didn't retire any of them was, "Well, Carlos Zambrano is supposed to be stretched out to start. Why not let him go five or six innings here?"

Maybe because Z was under the weather yesterday, Lou didn't want to do that -- or maybe Lou just wasn't thinking. Again. Z did eventually get in the 7-1 Cubs loss to the Cardinals, throwing a scoreless eighth inning with one walk. If it is his final relief appearance -- and it likely is -- Z finishes his bullpen stint with 12.1 innings in 12 games, with 16 hits allowed, three walks, ten strikeouts, one HR allowed, one decision (a loss in this dreadful outing vs. the Pirates on May 14) and a 4.38 ERA.

Lou said in his postgame remarks when asked if this horrific performance by Wells meant that Wells would be the one leaving the rotation, "No", but I don't believe him. This one, Wells' second awful start this month, might make the decision easy.

Here's something else remarkable about today's game: since 1952 -- the length of time that baseball-reference.com has play-by-play data -- there have been 159 games in which a starting pitcher left after recording zero outs and giving up at least five runs. Only four of those games resulted in that team's bullpen throwing nine scoreless innings and in only one of them -- this White Sox 6-5 win over the Athletics on September 27, 1981 -- did that team come back to win.

The Cub bullpen nearly pulled that off today, throwing 8.1 scoreless innings before John Grabow gave up a meaningless two-run homer to Ryan Ludwick in the ninth. Small consolation, I suppose, but give the pen credit, particularly James Russell, who gave up only two hits in four innings, and Jeff Stevens, who retired all six hitters he faced. Even Bob Howry threw an uneventful inning, giving up a double.

The Cubs might have made a game of it had they not run themselves out of a rally in the first inning. It appeared they might repeat what the Cardinals did when Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot both singled, but then they inexplicably tried a double steal on a 3-2 pitch -- Derrek Lee struck out and Fukudome was an easy out at third. Someone must have missed a sign -- or if not, that was a pretty dumb sign to give.

Aramis Ramirez then walked, but by then all the air had been sucked out of the crowd (at least the Cub portion of it; there was a loud and significant St. Louis minority decked out in red today, along with a few errant Blackhawks fans who forgot that you don't wear your red Blackhawks jersey to a Cubs game when the Cardinals are in town) and Alfonso Soriano flied out to end the inning.

Tyler Colvin -- who Lou said is "telling me he wants to be in the lineup" (Duh!) -- hit a pinch-homer in the fifth for the only Cubs run, the only highlight of a day of unlimited sunshine and the first near-capacity crowd all week (word was there were plenty of tickets available on the street for below face value).

That's really all you can say about a game that was over before the first Cardinal was retired. The Cubs will be facing a pitcher making his major league debut tomorrow, Adam Ottavino. Usually, that results in disaster -- but tomorrow is another day. I'll repost this in the morning, but the Cubs/Cardinals game is Fox's primary game tomorrow, going to 78% of the nation. Here's a coverage map so you can see if the game's on in your area. Or maybe after today, you'd rather not see it. Until tomorrow; go Astros!

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