Remember this old saw?
That if you had an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters (OK, I said it was old!), they'd eventually type all the works of Shakespeare?
Well, that's how tonight's swift kick in the butt, a 5-1 loss to the Astros, felt. Houston was 2-21 on the road coming into this game, a record that projected to only seven road wins all season -- something no modern team has accomplished (no, not even the 1962 Mets -- 18 road wins; or the 2003 Tigers, 20).
And so, you figured maybe they'd eventually figure it out and win one, and of course, it had to be the pitcher with the 5.15 ERA who totally handcuffed Cubs bats tonight. That is, all except Neifi!, who I kept telling Howard "was gonna save us!" -- he did, sort of, by having three hits and the Cubs' only RBI, and Jose Macias, who had a nine-pitch pinch-hit at-bat before singling to right to lead off the eighth and give us some false hope that maybe the Cubs would come back; right after that, Corey Patterson struck out swinging -- this after the Astros insulted him by bringing in a right-hander (Dan Wheeler) to face him instead of 93-year-old lefty John Franco, who was also warming up.
Yes, I'm still kidding about Franco's age, although the first time I saw him pitch the Cubs had not yet made the playoffs in the divisional play era.
Let's talk about something nice, shall we? Right across the aisle from us tonight sat a family with two little girls -- perhaps four and seven years old or so, attending, as you can see by the sign...
(as always, click on photo to view full-size in new browser window; if you are using IE, you may have to click the lower-right corner of the image to expand it to its full size; in Firefox click anywhere on the image. Photo by Al)
... their very first game at Wrigley Field.
Their parents gave permission to take and post this photo, and in return Jeff handed across the aisle a BCB card -- so I assume they're seeing this, and though they left after the eighth inning Houston rally put the game out of reach, they did appear to all be having a very good time -- even winning one of the Ryne Sandberg autographed photos that were a scratch-off card giveaway prize tonight.
And though I've come into the ballpark hundreds of times, I never do lose that feeling that being in the bleachers, being at Wrigley Field, is being part of something special each and every time I go there, and I hope that I am imparting some of that feeling to those of you who can't make it there, who have followed the Cubs from afar, and who hope someday to enter the ivy-covered walls. Win or lose -- it's still a meaningful experience every single day.
Back to the ballgame -- Greg Maddux deserved a better fate. He nearly did get through the decisive eighth inning, but after 94 pitches and an infield single to Craig Biggio (who was pulled for a pinch-runner -- how do you pull for a PR, a guy who just beat out an infield hit?), he was taken out trailing at the time, 3-1. The game was still manageable then, but unlike last night, Mike Wuertz was ineffective. He gave up an RBI single to Lance Berkman, and then was pulled for Will Ohman, who wild-pitched in the fifth and final run.
All this shows the unfairness of statistics. For their mediocre pitching, Wuertz and Ohman do not take an ERA hit -- all the runs were charged to Maddux, whose ERA goes from 4.12 to 4.33, on a day when he actually threw quite well.
Then, LaTroy Hawkins came in to the usual cacophany of boos (he ought to pay off the PA announcer NOT to announce his name!), and did something very unusual -- retired the side on three pitches. Last September 11 vs. the Marlins, Hawkins did what is sort of the "opposite" -- struck out the side on nine pitched balls. BCB is investigating to find out if any other pitchers in baseball history have accomplished both these feats.
Howard came armed with an entire list of puns for Todd Self. After hearing all of them (and some of them, trust me, you don't want to hear!), I said, "I was kind of hoping he wasn't going to play tonight -- that would have made the Astros' lineup Selfless."
Then we got into the talk about what you'd call the Astros' first baseman today if he happened to lay down a successful bunt (a sacrificial Lamb, of course), and that was just about enough of that until September, thankyouverymuch, the next time the Astros come into town.
By which time, we hope the Cubs are still in contention for something. When the Astros and Rockies, two horrendous teams, were the next two on the schedule, I figured winning six out of seven would be a good launching pad to the month of June, which will be quite a bit tougher.
I still feel that way -- but now it'll take a sweep of Colorado to accomplish that. The Brewers just did it -- so I don't see any reason why the Cubs can't.
One thing that's going to have to happen -- Aramis Ramirez is going to have to get untracked. He looks absolutely lost at the plate and his average, after an 0-for-4 tonight, is down to a scary-looking .226, and he has only three more RBI than Neifi!.
The scoreboard seemed understaffed again tonight. The pitchers on the AL side were again posted late, and the Kansas City/Texas game was apparently played without pitchers at all -- leading us to the conclusion that the Royals have given up on the season entirely and are playing T-ball.
Oh, sure, ruin a good joke!
Finally, Todd Walker was activated for the game tonight, and as expected, a pitcher was removed from the active roster. And just how was this accomplished? The Cubs announced that Mike Remlinger was going on the DL because he...
Keep the faith.