I was all ready to write a recap of today's game that was going to blast the Cubs for their poor defensive play. They made four errors, including Matt Garza's sixth of the season (more than any other NL hurler), leading to three unearned Braves runs. That gives the Cubs 53 unearned runs allowed this season -- only the Cardinals and the woeful Astros have given up more among NL teams.
They also struck out 18 times against Atlanta pitching.
In short, just the kind of game this team played way too often this season up to the time they posted their seven-game winning streak a couple of weeks ago.
But I can't complain too much after the Cubs used timely hitting and a two-run homer by Carlos Pena to defeat the Braves 6-5. It makes the team record in one-run games 18-19 -- far better than it was at this time a year ago -- and it's their 11th win in their last 14 games. It's their fourth straight series win, but first against a team with a winning record since they took three of four from the Brewers -- two months ago in mid-June.
As the headline indicates, it's a dead cat bounce; the Cubs are still 15 games under .500 and far out of first place or any playoff contention. I still enjoy watching them play (relatively) good baseball and win (even though Carlos Marmol made it a little too exciting with a ninth-inning walk before posting his 28th save). But it still doesn't change the fact that true systemic changes are needed in this organization. For starters, they could teach the sort of fundamentals from the bottom up that would prevent defensive lapses such as the Cubs had today. It's no coincidence that the Phillies, with the best record in baseball, also have allowed the fewest unearned runs (just 19).
The Cubs also ended the 33-game hitting streak of the Braves' Dan Uggla, who went 0-for-4 against Garza and Jeff Samardzija. He did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly and was robbed of a hit on a spectacular diving catch by Darwin Barney.
Uggla's hitting streak was probably the most unlikely of its length in baseball history. He was hitting .173 when it started and still is barely batting .230. That is, at least, a little closer to his lifetime mark of .259; during the streak he hit .377/.438/.762 with 15 HR and 32 RBI. Props to Uggla for an impressive feat, and props to Barney for a terrific catch.
In the latest regarding the Carlos Zambrano situation, there have been varying reports regarding what Z did or didn't do after Friday's game. This tweet from Paul Sullivan might shed some light:
Zambrano's agent now recanting story that Z personally returned stuff to his locker late Friday night. Spin control is out of control.
Or not. Really, does it make that much difference? Z is away from the team until at least Sept. 12, and according to another Sullivan tweet:
Casey Coleman to be called up to replace Zambrano in rotation in Houston.
That turn in the rotation will come up on Wednesday afternoon, and that is where we should be looking -- forward, not back. Coleman does have some talent, and it is worth seeing whether he can be a contributor to the 2012 rotation. If he can harness his command, he might be a useful inning-eating fifth starter. (Plus, he can hit a little.)
The Cubs' current streak could continue in Houston, as the Astros are the major leagues' worst team at home (19-40). I'm all for that. Win now, then make changes to ensure that winning can continue next year and into the future.