Padres 4, Cubs 3: As Expected, A Split

Denis Poroy

Did you really think this series would end differently?

So, I know you're probably more interested in my comments on the Cubs' signing of Manny Ramirez to be a player/coach at Triple-A Iowa than in this game.

Nevertheless, the major-league season goes on, and thus a recap of each game is called for!

First, I was out and about much of the day and so wanted to thank Josh for jumping on the Ramirez news and posting the nuts and bolts of what happened. I'll have more of my thoughts later on this evening.

But what I was thinking as Jason Hammel mowed down Padres -- after Josh Beckett threw a no-hitter earlier Sunday for the Dodgers over the Phillies -- retiring 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced, that if somehow Hammel could duplicate Beckett's effort, this could rank very high among the weirdest news days in Cubs history. (And Beckett's a former Red Sox player and teammate of Manny, too.)

But Yonder Alonso broke up Hammel's nascent no-hitter effort with a leadoff single in the fifth. Even after that, it looked like the Cubs might sneak away with a 1-0 win after Junior Lake homered in the sixth and Hammel still looked solid.

Unfortunately, that dream ended in the sixth when Hammel gave up a couple of hits and a run and with 90 pitches under his belt, Rick Renteria turned to the bullpen that has been surprisingly good the last couple of weeks.

Not today. James Russell and Brian Schlitter got hit and hit hard and the series wound up split after a 4-3 Padres win. Really, with these two teams both having trouble scoring runs (never mind that 11-run San Diego outburst on Friday) and the Cubs never really doing very well at Petco Park, I'm not surprised at all that this series wound up being split. The two-run homer Starlin Castro hit off Padres closer Huston Street in the ninth -- well, nice, but all that did was make this game another notch in the "one-run loss" column.

Give Hammel credit -- the second and third runs off him weren't his fault, and he certainly didn't do any harm to the idea that he's going to be pitching in another uniform come July 31, or earlier if another team gets desperate. (Does John Baker go along? Baker went 1-for-3, getting a gift double when Cameron Maybin whiffed on a fairly easy catch, but is only 5-for-39, .128, this year.)

Credit, too, to Luis Valbuena. I know I've been down on him as a "utility player," but maybe "supersub" could be better for him. He drew a pair of walks today and that gives him 25 for the season, tied for seventh in the National League, despite playing only about two-thirds as much as the players who have more bases on balls. His OBP now edges toward .400 (.389) and he's now hitting well enough to produce an OPS of .831. Essentially, he ought to be the second baseman every day, including against most lefthanders, since Darwin Barney doesn't appear to be able to hit pitchers throwing from either side.

I don't particularly care for the Padres' camo jerseys, but I was glad to see them wearing those today instead of the 1984 throwbacks. Think they'll ever stop throwing 1984 in the Cubs' faces? (Probably not.)

The Cubs now head to a much tougher assignment, playing the Giants in San Francisco. The Giants have the best record in the league (32-18) and the best home record in the league (17-8) and the Cubs have the second-worst road record in the league (8-17; only the Marlins at 6-17 are worse). Jeff Samardzija draws the tough assignment of defeating the Giants; his job might have been made a bit easier when Matt Cain, who was scheduled to start tomorrow, was scratched with a minor injury. Yusmeiro Petit goes for the Giants instead.

Perhaps Memorial Day will be the day Shark gets off the schneid. It was last year on Memorial Day at the Cell when Shark threw a two-hit shutout over the White Sox. Maybe the holiday will be good luck for him, and the team. Don't forget it's an afternoon game, 3:05 CT.

And stick around here; I'll have some thoughts about Manny soon.

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