Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs steps on second base after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
I've been sitting at my keyboard for quite some time trying to think of something different, anything different to write about the Cubs' 75th loss of 2011, 5-2 to the Brewers at Miller Park, a place that used to be Cubs-friendly, but this season has resulted in six losses in seven tries and being outscored 39-20. It was a loss that seemed pretty much like several dozen other losses in this profoundly bad season.
Can't, so you'll have to put up with more of the same.
Here's something positive: Starlin Castro led off the game with a home run, the first leadoff homer of his career. It was his eighth home run of the season, more than doubling his output of a year ago; this hints at the possibility that he could develop 15-20 homer a year power. His SLG stands at .430, fourth on the team; if he could bump that up another 40-50 points and get his OPS over .800 -- well then, we'd have a perennial All-Star. You already know this, but Castro is the brightest spot on this dull team and represents at least one point of hope for the future.
Darwin Barney does, too -- at times. Friday night wasn't one of those times. With the Cubs leading 2-1 and one man on in the bottom of the fifth, Barney committed an error on an attempted sacrifice by Nyjer Morgan. Perhaps that was on his mind when...
... Ryan Braun doubled off the top of the wall in right field. Corey Hart, who had been on base when Morgan tried to bunt, scored, but when Reed Johnson played the ball quickly off the wall, Morgan stopped at third.
Unfortunately, Barney threw there anyway. Well, threw sort of in the direction of third base after double or triple clutching. There was no reason to do this; Morgan wasn't going anywhere. At least he wasn't until the ball wound up in the dugout; by rule, both Morgan and Braun scored.
And that was the game; the Brewers led 4-2 and the Cubs, as seems so common when they go down in another jaw-dropping way in the middle innings, barely blipped the radar with any baserunners the rest of the way. They did get two men on against John Axford in the ninth inning. The best Bob Brenly could come up with on WGN's telecast was that he hoped this would at least make Axford throw a lot of pitches so that maybe he wouldn't be available later in the series.
This is what we are reduced to. Axford threw 25 pitches, which is more than most closers would throw to record a save. Carlos Marmol, by comparison, has thrown more than that 10 times this season. Axford will likely be available the rest of the series. And if he isn't, the Brewers have K-Rod.
Rodrigo Lopez didn't pitch too badly; the two runs that scored on Barney's throw weren't his fault and were unearned. But he didn't pitch that well, either, issuing four walks and giving up a pair of doubles to Braun and a home run to Brewers backup catcher George Kottaras.
At least the Cubs aren't the only team having trouble winning in Miller Park this season. The Brewers are an otherworldly 48-16 at home; only four teams (Reds, Mets, Diamondbacks and Rays) have managed to win more than one game there this season. The Cubs will try it again this evening... but don't count on a different result.