Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers reaches for the baseball that was overthrown as Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs runs at Miller Park on July 28, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers defeated the Cubs 4-2. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE -- I could make a template for these recaps, most probably.
Cubs take lead early. Cubs give back lead pretty much right away, then let the other team extend the lead with a home run. Cubs attempt to get back in game, but leave runners stranded. Bullpen does decent job of holding game close, but Cubs cannot hit other team's principal setup man or closer.
There! How did I do? Does that describe about half the Cubs' losses this year?
That's what happened this afternoon at Miller Park in the Cubs' 4-2 loss to the Brewers. They took advantage of Tony Campana's speed -- he beat out what was essentially a routine grounder to first -- when he went to second on a bad pickoff throw, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Good stuff, right? Not so much when Randy Wells had another one of his first innings. Two runs allowed on three hits, and it would have been more if there hadn't been a perfect relay to the plate by Starlin Castro to throw out Prince Fielder at the plate.
Semi-serious suggestion: start someone else on the day Wells is supposed to go, maybe Jeff Samardzija. Have him pitch the first inning, then bring Wells in for the second. Wells now has an 11.25 ERA in the first inning, and a 4.99 ERA in all other innings (and if you eliminate the one-third of an inning he has thrown this year in the seventh, allowing four earned runs, his ERA in the second through sixth innings is 4.33, much closer to his mark from last year). It has to be psychological.
The rest of the game was predictable. At 2-1, the Cubs seemed they might have a shot at coming back, but Ryan Braun's third-inning HR made it 3-1, and the Brewers extended it to 4-1 on a Braun double that nearly was another homer. The Cubs cut it to 4-2 on a pair of doubles, one by Alfonso Soriano that also just missed being a home run, but that was it.
Samardzija threw two good innings -- that's a good thing for the future.
Campana, if he could ever learn to take pitches and draw walks, could be a very useful player. His speed gave the Cubs a run and later, prevented a Milwaukee hit down the RF line from being a double. He just doesn't get on base enough to be valuable as even a semi-regular player; his .256 BA would be just fine if he could draw more walks. The five walks he's drawn in 93 plate appearances translates to a .290 OBP -- not acceptable for a guy whose main asset is speed. Double the walk rate and now we're talking, but that's by no means an easy thing to do.
This is what I'm reduced to: attempting to increase the value of a one-dimensional player like Tony Campana so that he'd be more valuable to the team.
One last thing about Miller Park today -- I was thinking back to the days of 2003-04 when the Brewers were bad and Cubs fans were 75% of the crowd; those games sounded like home games. Though I saw many Cubs fans in Milwaukee today, they were mostly silent even when the Cubs took the lead -- couldn't have been more than 10-15% of the total of 40,008 (a legitimate number, looked like that many in the house). Cubs fans, who are stopping going to Wrigley Field in large numbers, also are staying away from Miller Park, despite the much lower prices there.
That's a tale for another day. So is this: I have some more thoughts on the Fukudome trade, what it means, and what the Cubs should learn from his signing in the first place. But that'll have to wait until tomorrow after a two-and-a-half-hour rush hour drive back from Milwaukee.