Luis Valbuena of the Chicago Cubs hits a home run against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Embrace the bad.
Those of you who have been here a while know that I'm the most optimistic of Cubs fans, usually. This year has to be different, because it was clear from the beginning that this was not built to be a contending team. And when several veteran players were traded away both before and after the July 31 non-waiver deadline, the 2012 edition of the Cubs became a glorified Triple-A team.
This is why it was no surprise (not to me, anyway) that they lost 7-3 to the Reds Friday night in Cincinnati, despite taking leads of 1-0 and 3-1.
In the game preview, it was suggested that as many as eight home runs could be hit, combined, off Travis Wood and Bronson Arroyo, both of whom have a strong propensity to allow home runs. It did look like the teams were headed that way in the early innings; Luis Valbuena gave the Cubs that 1-0 lead with a homer, one of three hits for him; then the Reds hit three of them (Ryan Ludwick, Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce) off Wood in the fourth and fifth innings.
That was it for the home runs, and, in fact, the scoring. It was 7-3 after five and not much happened the rest of the way. Alfonso Soriano did make a nice throw to get Ludwick trying to stretch a single into a double in the seventh; that was about the only Cubs highlight of the game after inning number four.
I'd really like to see Travis Wood succeed, but it doesn't seem likely. He's so inconsistent; he had an excellent outing against this same team just five days ago, then got pounded Friday night. He's now allowed 21 home runs in 100⅔ innings; do the math -- that would translate to well over 40 home runs given up in a full season. Just four NL pitchers (Mike Minor, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton and Ian Kennedy) have given up more homers than Wood, and all have at least 29 more innings pitched.
On the other hand, Ted Lilly, a lefthander of comparable style to Wood, was putting up years like this when he was in his mid- to late-20s; Lilly finally figured it out and had his best seasons in his 30s. Maybe T-Wood can be this type of pitcher.
Or maybe I'm dreaming again. Trying to be optimistic in a season like this isn't easy. Here's something: Starlin Castro went 2-for-4 and is hitting .316 (12-for-38) in his last 10 games with a home run, six RBI and three walks. That's a good sign for his future. Anthony Rizzo also had a pair of hits.
Incidentally, the headline to this post is meant to be read in one of a couple of different ways. It's a loss in the first of a four-game series. It also could be the first of four straight losses. You make the call. It's been a bad season and things could get worse before they get better. So embrace it; why not? Do we have a choice?
Saturday, the Cubs and Reds will play a split doubleheader beginning at 12:10 p.m. CDT. The game preview for both will post at 10:30 a.m. CDT.