The Cubs lost 7-2 to the Reds Wednesday night in Cincinnati, and the game was essentially over when Ramon Hernandez hit a rocket of a home run off Casey Coleman, a three-run shot, in the second inning.
The Cubs can still split this series and have a winning road trip with a victory Thursday night. That's all well and good, but there were a few inscrutable quotes from a couple of Cubs in this Chicago Tribune recap of the game that I'd like to examine this morning.
Let's begin with starting pitcher Coleman, who gave up eight hits and six runs in 3.2 innings, throwing only 47 strikes in 80 pitches.
"I felt like I didn't know how to pitch tonight," said Coleman, who has lost five straight.
Notwithstanding the fact that "not knowing how to pitch" would be a significant problem for anyone who, you know, is out on a pitcher's mound, is there absolutely no one on the Cubs' coaching staff that Coleman could have told this to during the game, instead of to reporters afterward? No one who could have helped him with his approach, or anything else related to his performance? Coleman continued:
"You have a base open with Francisco up. The guy … I faced him in the minor leagues. He has always had success," Coleman said. "I knew in my head I needed to walk him … pitch around him and go after (Drew) Stubbs. You have to be able to execute pitching around a guy. That shouldn't be too hard. I threw a changeup right down the middle and he was able to get a two-run single."
I am well aware that Casey Coleman is never going to be a great major league pitcher. His stuff isn't good enough. But if he can harness command and the mental game of pitching, he can (I believe) become an effective fifth starter in the major leagues. But he needs help. He's not getting it with the current coaching staff.
Oh, but wait. There's more.
Mike Quade on Starlin Castro:
"I would love to see him get 200 hits," said Quade. "He's eight away from that. We're talking about a young kid in the middle of September. He's out there every day and still swinging the bat and doing things. That's the kind of stuff that looks really good down the road for him. He might end up with 700 at-bats. That's something."
Castro had two hits Wednesday night, raising his average to .309. He also drew a walk, which is almost as important; I'd like to see Castro improve his plate discipline. Not that he has to become a walking machine, but if he's more selective, he might get even more good pitches to hit.
But about "I would love to see him get 200 hits" -- it's almost a no-brainer. Castro is averaging 1.324 hits per game. The Cubs have 13 games remaining, and he's almost certain to start all of them. That would give him -- if he keeps up that pace -- 17 more hits. If he can do that and finish with 209 hits, that would rank tied for seventh in team history with Jigger Statz, who had 209 in 1923. ("Jigger Statz". They don't make baseball names like that any more.)
And about the "700 at-bats" remark? Castro has 622 at-bats. There are 13 games remaining. He would have to average six at-bats per game to get 700 at-bats... more or less impossible. Maybe Quade meant 700 plate appearances? Castro has 656 PA; he'd have to average 3.36 PA per game to get to 700. It'll be close. Meanwhile, thought, if Castro has three at-bats in each remaining game, he'd get to 661 at-bats, which would be tied for fourth on the all-time Cub single-season list with Ken Hubbs, who did it at age 20 in his Rookie of the Year season in 1962.
I'm out of quotes for this recap. But I'll finish by telling you that when the Astros lost to the Phillies on Wednesday, the Cubs clinched fifth place.
Big whoop, right? There will be more baseball tonight.