How Not To Play Baseball And Still Set Milestones: Cubs Beat Astros 2-1

Shall we dance? Jimmy Paredes of the Houston Astros forces out Bryan LaHair of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis /Getty Images)

As befitting teams that entered Saturday's game with 85 and 99 losses, respectively, the Cubs and Astros gave an excellent demonstration of bad baseball Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

In the first inning alone, we had a pitcher give up a run because of an error and still strike out the side and his opponent allow four walks, but not have the run he allowed be as a direct result of any of the walks (it, too, scored on an error).

That set the tone for a dreadfully long (three hours and 16 minutes for 8-1/2 innings, just 36 minutes shorter than Friday's 12-inning affair) in which I timed Wesley Wright, one of three Houston relievers, as taking about 45 seconds between pitches -- and that doesn't even include a couple of mound meetings the Astros had during his two-batter appearance in the eighth inning.

The Cubs left nine men on base and were 0-for-8 with RISP. The Astros left 13 men on base and were 0-for-14 with RISP. Exactly 300 pitches were thrown in this game, 138 by Astros hurlers and 162 by five Cubs pitchers, but when Sean Marshall got Humberto Quintero to hit a soft bouncer to Darwin Barney with the bases loaded in the ninth, the Cubs had a 2-1 victory over Houston, several milestones were established. (Note: I didn't understand the PH appearance by Quintero; he was batting for Brian Bogusevic. The last time Bogusevic faced a Cubs pitcher with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, he hit a walkoff grand slam. Sometimes, you want the better hitter at the plate even though it would have been lefty vs. lefty. Good for the Cubs that Astros manager Brad Mills made this choice.)

Here's the history (and other statistical miscellany) this victory accomplished:

  • It was the Astros' 100th loss. It is the first time in Houston franchise history they have lost 100 games; that leaves the Angels and Rockies as the only teams that have never lost 100 games in a season.
  • It is the 4,000th game the Cubs have won in Wrigley Field. They have lost 3,520 for a winning percentage of .532. Even in bad years, the Cubs have generally played well at home. In fact, if they can win the four home games remaining in 2011, they'd finish with a winning home season at 41-40.
  • The Cubs evened up their record in one-run games at 25-25. It's 13-6 since the All-Star break.
  • The Cubs evened up their record since the All-Star break to 30-30, improved to 8-7 in September and 24-20 since Aug. 1.

Rodrigo Lopez threw six very good innings, striking out a season-high seven. Then again, you have to remember he was facing essentially a Triple-A team. So a few props to Lopez, but not enough to make me want him back. Meanwhile, Houston's Henry Sosa, a more-or-less Triple-A pitcher, handcuffed the Cubs (except for the four first-inning walks) with no hits for the first three innings.

Then Bryan LaHair hit his second home run as a Cub to dead center field. It gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead and was the final scoring in the game. I'm not going to go through all the various scoring chances the Cubs (and for that matter, the Astros) had in the last five innings, because it might take as long as those innings did. (I think Wesley Wright might still be out there kicking dirt around the Wrigley Field mound.)

A few -- very few -- words about the wave that started in the ninth inning (it appeared, in right center field) and went around Wrigley Field several times. Stop this. Just stop it. It's not interesting, it's not enjoyable to watch, it got in the way of a critical situation in the game and it's not all about you, you people who start it.

It's so 1980s. Just stop. (No, I did not participate, nor will I ever.)

Attendance watch: 39,377 tickets were sold today. The no-show count was reasonably low, likely due to the nice weather; over 30,000 were in the house and the bleachers were about 95% full. That brings the season total to 2,879,104. So the Cubs need just 120,896 to get to three million -- an average of 30,224 for the four remaining dates. They should get it, especially after I heard today that a lot of bleacher tickets were sold for Monday and Tuesday, presumably to Brewers fans thinking they might see a division clinching game.

Which I would rather not see. Milwaukee's magic number is seven; this would be a great time to send them on a five-game losing streak, starting tonight.

Meanwhile, the Cubs will go for their sixth straight home win over the Astros (and second straight sweep of them at Wrigley) Sunday afternoon behind Ryan Dempster.

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