Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair celebrates a two run home run with shortstop Starlin Castro against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
For half an inning, anyway, this was shaping up as a "great comeback" recap.
Credit where credit is due: Bryan LaHair's two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning completed a comeback from a 4-0 first-inning deficit and tied the game at 4. Not only does LaHair have five of the Cubs' nine home runs, he hits one in a key late-inning situation.
I'm getting more and more sold on him. I'd like to give it more than a month before I definitively say I was wrong about LaHair, but it's looking like "Al was wrong" is winning. Couldn't be happier -- glad the Cubs have at least one guy who can hit for power.
The nine home runs are the fewest for a Cubs team in a month where they played at least 20 games since August 1981. We all know how that year turned out.
Unfortunately, Scott Maine and Rafael Dolis proceeded to give the lead right back; the key play in the inning was Maine hitting Juan Pierre, and after Dolis relieved him, two batters later Placido Polanco's two-run double was the difference in the Cubs' 6-4 loss to the Phillies. But hey, the Cubs have the same record as the Angels at the end of April, so everything must be OK. Right? Right?
Chris Volstad's overall pitching line doesn't look that awful -- six innings, four earned runs. Unfortunately, all of those runs came in a nasty-looking first inning where the Phillies had two scratchy infield hits, one on a bunt that Volstad couldn't field, and a couple other seeing-eye singles that bounced just out of reach of Cubs infielders. The Phillies didn't really hit the ball hard the entire inning, yet scored four times.
After that inning, Volstad allowed just four other singles in his remaining five innings of work. You could call this "Randy Wells Syndrome" -- Wells had a number of games last year in which he had a bad first inning, then settled down.
The Cubs scored their first run when Alfonso Soriano doubled, Ian Stewart walked and Blake DeWitt singled; Soriano could advance only to third, so that loaded the bases with nobody out. You really need to score more than one run in a situation like that, but that's all the Cubs got when Geovany Soto hit into a double play.
Soto also reached in the ninth inning, which raised the question: why didn't Dale Sveum pinch-run for him? Soto might not be Yadier Molina-slow, but he's getting there. In any case, he stayed anchored to first base when Darwin Barney popped up and David DeJesus flied to left.
This was the Cubs' worst April since 2002, when they went 8-16. That team had no winning calendar months and wound up with 95 losses. Wish I had better news. They'll head to Cincinnati to begin a three-game series Tuesday night, with Jeff Samardzija facing Bronson Arroyo.