Here's the most salient fact about Friday afternoon's 9-6 Cubs loss to the Cardinals:
From Elias: Travis Wood is 1st starter in MLB history to allow a HR in each of the first 5 innings of a game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 27, 2012
Only a Cubs pitcher could do that. The same twitter feed noted that it's the first time a Cardinals team has done that, and the first time a Cubs team has allowed five homers in the first five innings of a game, no matter how many pitchers were involved. Five different Cardinals (in order: Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Lance Berkman, Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig) were responsible for the homers, and Molina's was launched all the way across Waveland, where it was just barely missed by BCB's own ballhawk.
All of this on a day where the Cubs had a pre-game ceremony honoring Ron Santo's induction into the Hall of Fame last Sunday, and once again paid tribute to the late Cubs star by kicking their heels taking the field in the first inning.
For a while, the Cubs kept up with the home run barrage. They scored three runs in the first inning, led by a monstrous two-run blast by Anthony Rizzo that landed in the last row of the new party patio in right field. Three more crossed the plate in the third inning; Starlin Castro tripled, Rizzo singled him in, followed by an Alfonso Soriano run-scoring double. Soriano then hustled into third base on the throw to the plate. Props to Soriano -- he's played very, very well this year. He then scored on a Geovany Soto single, and the Cubs led 6-4.
That, however, was it for Cubs scoring, and almost Cubs offense, on this day. From the third through the seventh inning they had no hits, and just one baserunner; Luis Valbuena walked in the fourth and then was caught stealing. That had to be a missed sign -- why would you have a straight steal with the pitcher batting?
Speaking of the pitcher, Travis Wood's five home runs allowed give him a season total of 17 home runs given up in 77⅔ innings -- that's a frighteningly high number. That puts Wood in the top 20 for HR allowed in the major leagues this year -- and everyone who has more has at least 17 more innings pitched (well, except Nick Blackburn, and Blackburn has a 7.99 ERA). He jumped over 57 pitchers in that list today.
I don't get it. Wood had a spectacularly good streak going for six starts from June 3 through July 1, posting a 1.83 ERA and allowing just one home run in that span, which covered 39⅓ innings. Since then, in three starts covering 15⅓ innings, he has a 12.64 ERA and nine home runs allowed.
That makes no sense. Most pitchers who have streaks that good don't then have streaks as bad as the one Wood is on. Could he be hurt? Tipping his pitches? Something is wrong that has to be fixable, because Wood does have talent.
The Cubs did manage to get the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning with a hit and a walk, but Marc Rzepczynski came in and retired Reed Johnson and Geovany Soto on fly balls to end the threat. The Cubs' bullpen was decent today, at least; three hits and a run, with five strikeouts, in four innings of work, and the run might not have scored if Manuel Corpas hadn't hit the first batter he faced (Jon Jay) and then let him scamper around the bases on a stolen base and a throwing error.
Regarding Ryan Dempster's situation, obviously, he's still a Cub, tentatively scheduled to start Tuesday night against the Pirates. Obviously again, that gives teams time to complete a deal before Tuesday, and then he could pitch for an acquiring team as soon as Monday (four days' rest since his last outing Wednesday). I still believe that we need to exercise some caution in what we say about this situation. We do not have all the facts; while there have been reports that Dempster did give his blessing to a trade to the Braves, not one person has confirmed that was the case. It may very well be that such a thing was discussed but not confirmed, Theo and Jed worked out a deal with Atlanta, and then it was leaked by someone with the Braves before Dempster had a chance to think about all the ramifications for him.
Many of you have been quick to blast Dempster, someone who had gained a lot of respect over nine seasons for his performance and his personality. You could be right. But you also could be wrong, and I hope that if and when we do learn all the facts about this broken deal -- or maybe it'll happen anyway -- you'll be willing to say you were wrong.
At first, I too was part of the torches-and-pitchforks mob. But in examining everything that's out there, it seems to me there's more to this than we know. The blame here might go to some unnamed person in the Braves' front office for leaking this deal before it was 100% completed. Here's more via David Kaplan:
After talking with some well-informed sources this afternoon, it appears that the Cubs may have more possibilities than just the Los Angeles Dodgers to trade Ryan Dempster to. According to people with knowledge of the discussions, Dempster is willing to consider other teams than the Dodgers but as is his right he wants time to consider his options before giving his approval to a trade.
"Ryan is willing to look at any opportunity that the Cubs bring to him but in the end he has 10 and 5 rights and he will use them to veto a trade he is not comfortable with," the source said.
The key to this appears to be "time to consider his options". It appears he didn't get that when the proposed Atlanta trade was leaked.
A little less than four days remain until the deadline. A lot can happen between now and then. Let's wait and see.