... it wasn't going to be the Cubs' night when Howard called not long after the gates opened.
He'd stopped to buy sandwiches at Jimmy John's. He had ordered them by phone, parked, got out of his car, went in, paid, got his change, and left.
Notice something left out there? He didn't take the sandwiches! He called back, and they said they had thought he just went to move his car.
Nice people that they are, they gave him a credit. So we'll eat Jimmy John's again later this week, and he stopped and picked up a cheeseburger for me at Murphy's, even putting a tomato on it. I haven't been doing the tomato drop most of this year, and with the recent winning ways of the ballclub haven't felt the need to do so. You can't force a tomato, after all.
And now, with sincere apologies to the late 70's Canadian band The Kings, this was going through my head all night last night...
OK, I said it required apologies.
So did the Cubs' uninspired play last night. They lost to the Blue Jays 4-1, the only run coming on a Sammy Sosa-esque consolation homer by Aramis Ramirez in the ninth. Look at these quotes from the above-linked game story, though, for a clue as to WHY the club looked so uninspired:
Pitching backward? What does that mean? I will say that both Mike and I noticed that Chacin had an odd pitching motion, all flailing arms and legs, and he kept Cub hitters off balance all night.
Hey, they may have had a good scouting report, or at least Barrett thought so... but Gustavo Chacin, making his fourteenth major league start, had the Cubs off-balance all night. It wound up costing me $1. When Corey Patterson was sent up to pinch-hit for Jerry Hairston in the eighth, I couldn't get my dollar out fast enough to bet Jeff that he'd swing at the first pitch.
Naturally, he did, so I bet Jeff he'd swing at the second pitch. THAT one, Corey decided to take. On the third pitch, he grounded to second. The at-bat was over nearly as quickly as some of the single-pitch at-bats that Corey specializes in.
But, I can't blame Patterson's single at-bat for the loss. It really turned on one play -- Koronka's attempt to throw out John McDonald at second base on Chacin's sacrifice bunt in the second inning. On this, let me quote Mike, who has often said to me:
More quotes on this play, first from Koronka:
Hmmm. Seems someone -- or a lot of someones -- wasn't doing his homework last night. After they failed to get an out on the sac, Koronka fell victim to what I've dubbed "Matt Clement Syndrome" -- immediately losing focus after a bad play or misplay or bad umpiring call -- and he gave up a three-run homer to Reed Johnson, who had tormented the Cubs two years ago in Toronto when he both led off and walked-off a game with homers.
Actually, after the homer Koronka settled down and didn't throw too bad a game, finishing with four runs allowed in six innings, striking out five and walking only two, and the bullpen (particularly Joe Borowski, who looked like his velocity was beginning to return -- he struck out two in his one inning of worn) kept the game fairly close. Even two errors in one inning didn't hurt, although the second, a lost-focus dropped fly ball from Hairston, playing center field tonight (and I keep waiting for him to trip over his pulled-over-his-shoes-cool pants), didn't result in any Blue Jays scoring.
It was suddenly summer last night, with temperatures in the 80's -- in comparison to the last few years, when winter stubbornly held on and refused to yield in the early days of June, and Howard was sporting his brand-new "Neifi! 13" shirt, which he got free from a shirt-printing place in California because after several phone calls and e-mails, they apparently felt badly about not getting back to him. Unfortunately, this shirt failed to inspire Neifi! -- he went 0-for-4, ending his 14-game hitting streak.
Speaking of shirts, we spotted a young couple wearing black t-shirts that apparently had a Yankee logo on the front ... but on closer look it was a novelty shirt from a place called Jewish Fashion Conspiracy -- reading "Jews for Jeter". We tried to come up with similar ideas, but after "Jewboys for Dubois", we quit.
I have no comment on the thong on that page.
It got so bad last night that we spent a couple of innings making really bad, clipboard-smackingworthy cow pun jokes. Seriously, don't ask.
Byron Clarke of The Cubdom showed up again, this time with his mom and brothers in tow -- and this is suspicious, because he was also at the last home loss on May 26. We agreed that as a result, he shouldn't return to the bleachers till September. We shall see if that has an impact tonight.
The scoreboard and its two "LOS ANGELES" panels confused us at first today. It showed Detroit at Los Angeles and Los Angeles at Atlanta. So, we agreed it must have been a split-squad game. (Yes, I know the Dodgers were hosting the Tigers and the Angels were at the Braves.)
The Cubs got the crowd fired up in the 9th (and most people actually stuck around, likely due to the nice weather, not any nice baseball) after Ramirez' homer. Jason Dubois popped a double right off the RF foul line, and after Jeromy Burnitz was called out on strikes (he was 0-for-4 and looked bad doing it), Michael Barrett singled, bringing the tying run to the plate in the person of...
See, this is where the 12-man pitching staff really hurts the ballclub. Todd Walker was on deck waiting to bat for Mike Remlinger, but there was no one (unless you count Enrique Wilson, and I don't) available to bat for Macias.
He hit the first pitch for one of the quickest double plays I've seen, and that was the game.
With the two off-days this week and next, I doubt Koronka will stay in the rotation -- the Cubs could skip the fifth spot over the next few days, and bring Ben Grieve up to put an extra bat on the bench. That wouldn't hurt either during the road-interleague series vs. the Yankees and White Sox. Grieve, with 105 lifetime games at DH, has more DH experience than anyone else on the current Cubs roster.
Finally, please welcome the newest member of the SportsBLOGS family, Bucs Dugout, the Pittsburgh Pirates site.