I brought Mark to the game last night and before the pitching meltdown in the fifth inning, I happened to look over at his scorecard.
In the square for Miguel Cabrera in the third, he had written "POO POO" in between the "6-3" for Cabrera's groundout that had scored the Marlins' first run of the game.
"Why did you write that?" I asked.
Answer: "It was a poo-poo play!"
Well, who can argue with a nearly-ten-year-old's logic?
It was such a play. It was a poo-poo game, actually -- the Cubs lost 9-1 to the Marlins.
And can we now, as we did yesterday about Cliff Bartosh, admit that the Great John Koronka Experiment is over?
Koronka, like his fellow lefty Glendon Rusch on Sunday night, wriggled out of several jams in the first four innings. I said to my friend Other Mike (in town on business from Boston -- all the other Boston people having left, he figured it was safe to show up!) that he was lucky to be, in the fifth inning, still in a tie game.
It wasn't to be for long, and I fear Joe Borowski's not long for this pitching staff either. Koronka nearly escaped the fifth too, and would have if a runner not as fast as Juan Pierre had hit a ground ball after Dontrelle Willis' leadoff single. Most other runners would have been doubled up, but Pierre's one of the fastest in the game. After that, Koronka allowed three more hits and a walk and Dusty Baker had seen enough, and so had we.
But Borowski's velocity was down on Sunday night and he topped out at 87 last night, giving up three more hits -- including the second hit by Willis in the inning (none of us could ever remember seeing a pitcher get two hits in an inning before), and the boo-birds came out, which really isn't fair. Borowski appears to have lost something since his magical 2003 season, and even though he's done everything possible to rehab, worked very hard, it may never come back. It's a real shame.
Mark decided to remind me as we were walking into the park of the last occasion on which he saw the Marlins play in person. Yes, you guessed it -- game 6 of the NLCS. So -- I'm thinking maybe this is the last time I take him to see the Marlins play. That makes an eight-run inning (in 2003) and a seven run-inning (last night) that he's seen the Marlins produce in his presence.
Not that I'm saying he's bad luck or anything. Incidentally, he also insisted that this was the first loss he had seen this year -- because we had to leave the rain-delayed loss to the Mets on May 9 early because it was a school night.
I see I've digressed, and believe me, this is a worthwile post to digress on! After looking so good the first two days against the Red Sox, the Cubs have looked pretty flat the last two nights. In fact, they look like a very different team at night (15-16 under the lights; 18-13 in day games). I have mentioned here before the ridiculous splits that Neifi! has in day and night games (still true: .846 OPS in day games, .696 in night) -- could it be that the team has taken on Neifi!'s personality?
This is a scary thought and perhaps best left to the imagination.
In addition to ending the John Koronka Experiment (sounds sort of like a '70s progressive rock band, doesn't it?), once again Cliff Bartosh proved he doesn't belong at the major league level. He came in to pitch in garbage time for the second day in a row... and allowed a home run to Luis Castillo, Castillo's first of the year.
Let me say that again. Luis Castillo, the Marlins' second baseman, hadn't homered all year. It was his 17th career homer in well over 4000 at-bats. Castillo has a career slugging percentage of .354, for heaven's sake. It's time to admit that just because someone throws with his left hand (Koronka, Bartosh) it does not necessarily mean he can get major league hitters out. The Cubs have hesitated sending Bartosh to Iowa because he's out of options -- but this isn't as if they're going to lose their best prospect or anything like that. He's not a Rule V choice. Other teams are DFA'ing people like this every day. It may be time to waive him, take a chance, and I'm sorry to keep beating this dead horse -- get another hitter on the bench! Koronka also balked last night -- Other Mike said that was the first time he'd ever seen a balk in person, and he and I attended dozens of games together back in the 70's before he moved to Boston, and his two balks are the only two for the staff this year. His next turn would come up Sunday at Yankee Stadium, and though lefties do have somewhat more success there, I think the Cubs might have to look elsewhere to fill that slot.
Help may be on the way:
Hey, the way the staff threw last night, either one of these might be helpful. But no, that's just "Rooster Booster", helping out with a first pitch at last night's game in Iowa, where the real help may be located. Kerry Wood threw three scoreless innings and also smacked a triple, before leaving during a rain delay. If his next rehab start goes well, he could rejoin the rotation either during the series at Milwaukee, or perhaps at the Cell the last weekend of June.
In any case, a decision on Koronka can wait a few days -- with the off-day Thursday, the rotation for the Yankee series will be Carlos Zambrano, Glendon Rusch and Sergio Mitre (who will go tonight). Greg Maddux, who throws tomorrow afternoon, will begin the Milwaukee series next Monday, so Tuesday the 21st will be the next time the Cubs need a fifth starter.
There was one good thing that came out of last night's fiasco -- after the seven-run inning, Mike Remlinger, chaise-lounged pinky all healed, came in and threw two perfect innings. In fact, until Bartosh allowed the homer to Castillo, the bullpen (Will Ohman included) had retired ten straight hitters.
Finally, the ballpark was very quiet -- too quiet -- last night after the raucous gatherings of Red Sox fans over the weekend. I asked around and there was at least one confirmed sighting of a fan wearing a Marlins cap. On one of the rare days when both Chicago teams played head-to-head at home together, the Cubs only outdrew the White Sox, who lost just as badly as the Cubs did, 8-1 to Arizona, by 5,756 -- 38,708 to 32,952. Of course, the White Sox sell day-of-game tickets for half-price on Mondays, and Tuesdays you can get two-for-one if you bring a certain empty soft-drink container.
Onward. The Cubs still trail the Cardinals by 6 1/2 games after St. Louis lost to Toronto last night, and they are two games behind the current wild-card leader, the Phillies.
There are exactly one hundred games remaining. If the Cubs can go 60-40 -- not unreasonable once Wood and Mark Prior return -- that'd be 93 wins, and that should be enough for a postseason berth.