Starting pitcher Matt Latos of the San Diego Padres throws the ball during the first inning of the game against the Chicago Cubs at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
That day, they were facing the Marlins' Andrew Miller, who posted an 8.54 ERA in 2010 and has a career ERA of 5.79 (and 5.54 in 12 starts for the Red Sox this year, which could go a long way toward explaining Boston's troubles).
That wasn't the case Monday night in San Diego. The Padres' Mat Latos is a very good pitcher; his 8-14 W-L record coming into the game reflects the 3.3 runs/start of run support he had received this season before Monday. That ranked 64th among 70 qualified starters in the National League.
That number actually went down Monday night; he got just two runs from his teammates, but Latos was outstanding and he and two relievers shut out the Cubs 2-0 on just two hits. The loss was the Cubs' 90th of the season; I've taken down the "loss countdown" box that was on the left sidebar. Now, I'd just like to see them win their last two games to finish up on a high note.
Yes, that's right. The only Cubs hitter who could hit Latos through six innings was the opposing pitcher. Coleman is a pretty good hitter, but once again, the Cubs had a runner on third base with fewer than two out and could not get him home. The only other Cubs hit -- or baserunner -- was recorded by Starlin Castro, who singled leading off the seventh. It was the 38th consecutive game in which Castro reached base. But he, too, never left that spot.
Give Latos, Chad Qualls and Heath Bell some credit. They were lights-out last night. Coleman was also good -- he allowed Will Venable's home run that was the only run the Padres needed, but apart from that, just four other hits and two walks, along with seven strikeouts. It does appear to me that Coleman's work with his father (former major leaguer Joe Coleman) has helped him; Casey's delivery looks completely revamped. He should definitely get the chance to be next year's fifth starter. Rafael Dolis (who is a large man!) made his MLB debut and threw 1.1 scoreless innings, and then John Gaub got a pair of outs in the eighth.
At which time Mike Quade decided he just had to have a righthander in the game. So 38-year-old Ramon Ortiz came in. He got the out, but really: when a pitcher is going good, and maybe you'd like to see what a LHP can do against righthanded hitters, why not leave Gaub in? The reflexive moves by managers to get the platoon advantage can be taken to extremes. Quade has done this more often than almost any Cubs manager I can remember.
Two games left. Just remember that.
I wanted to say a few words here about Carlos Pena, whose walk was his 100th of the season. I'm not sure that some of you understand how rare that is. First, Pena ranks third in the NL in walks -- only Prince Fielder and Joey Votto have drawn more. That's pretty good company. And it's not as if they're pitching around Pena -- he has exactly one intentional walk this season.
In the last 81 years -- since 1930 -- there had been only four Cubs 100-walk seasons before Pena: Richie Ashburn in 1960, Gary Matthews in 1984 and Sammy Sosa in 2001 and 2002.
This has value. Pena is third on the team in runs, largely as a result of being on base so many times. He has a .358 OBA -- even with his low batting average, that ranks 21st in the NL, just below Corey Hart. He has a .466 SLG -- that ranks 25th in the NL, just below Brian McCann. It is true that he has not hit well with RISP this year. In his last good year with the Rays (2009) he hit .264/.430/.614 with RISP. Perhaps this year is the anomaly.
I'm not saying that I'm 100% convinced he should be back. But at this point, I doubt the Cubs are in the running for Albert Pujols or Fielder. And I'm still not convinced that Bryan LaHair is the answer.
All I'm saying is that Carlos Pena has had a decently productive season and has been worth the contract he's signed.
Two games to go and this misbegotten season will be history. Matt Garza throws tonight; he's been one of the few things really worth watching all year.