A familiar sight Tuesday night: manager Mike Quade of the Chicago Cubs takes the ball from pitcher Jeff Samardzjia as he leaves the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 12, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Marcos Mateo threw 15 pitches (10 strikes) in his inning of work and struck out the side.
Tyler Colvin hit his second home run of the season.
There. That sums up all the good things that happened in last night's brutal 11-2 Cubs loss to the Astros, not only their worst effort of the season so far, but one of the worst games I've seen the Cubs play over the last several seasons.
It got so bad that at one point Jeff Samardzija launched a pitch over the catcher, batter and umpire; it hit the screen just next to where former president George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara (big Astros fans, I'm led to understand) were sitting; despite the presence of the screen, they both were seen ducking out of the way. In about the seventh inning, they were shown on camera beginning to leave; even as the big baseball fans they are supposed to be, they'd apparently had enough of the Cubs horror show they were watching.
Clearly, "Cubs bullpen day" wasn't a great idea from the start and when James Russell gave up a couple of bunt hits and had errors and misplays in the field behind him in a poorly played first inning where Houston scored three runs, the game was essentially over. Mike Quade was effusive in his praise of Samardzija eating up three innings -- the longest relief stint for any Cubs reliever since last July 19, when Mitch Atkins threw four innings in relief of Carlos Silva against... the Astros, who scored 11 runs in that game, too, and won 11-5. In fact, only 17 times since the beginning of 2009 has a Cub reliever thrown more than two innings in a game -- recent Cubs managers don't seem to understand the concept of "long reliever".
Beyond the three fielding errors the Cubs made, there was again an abject failure to hit with RISP. The Cubs actually had a fair number of baserunners last night -- 11 hits and a walk -- but went 1-for-15 with RISP, scoring only on Colvin's homer and a consolation run driven in by Starlin Castro in the ninth inning when it seemed as if there were maybe 2,000 people left in Minute Maid Park. I think CSN's cameras showed individual shots of almost every single one of them.
So, it's got to be back to the proverbial drawing board regarding who's going to take the fifth starter's spot. With the off day, the spot doesn't come up again until next Monday. Will Samardzija get a start? It doesn't seem likely that the just-signed Doug Davis will be stretched out and ready by then, and there really isn't anyone else at Iowa capable of taking that start, unless the Cubs really want to give it to Ramon Ortiz (hint: don't. The results would likely be just as bad as last night's).
The only real positive I can take out of last night's mess is that it was going to be a tough game to win anyway, with Brett Myers, noted Cub-killer, going for Houston. Even if the Cubs had held the Astros down last night with better pitching, Myers is pretty good. The Cubs can still win this series with Carlos Zambrano facing Wandy Rodriguez tonight.