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Somebody forgot to tell the Cubs a bunch of stuff yesterday.

Somebody forgot to tell them, first, that the Astros aren't quite as good as the Cardinals -- and yes, I know that the Cardinals were playing with several of their regulars out. And when you're playing a not-quite-as-good-team, you're supposed to play better, right?

Right. But that's a lesson they didn't learn against the Reds, either.

Somebody forgot to tell the Cubs that when you have the good fortune and good playing to score two runs in the first inning off a pitcher with a six-plus ERA, that maybe keeping that lead would be a good idea.

Somebody forgot to tell the Cubs to stop issuing walks to pitchers!!! Walking Wandy Rodriguez in the disastrous six-run Houston fifth wasn't the worst thing that happened -- the Astros had already hit two homers that inning off Todd Wellemeyer, including the first of the season by somebody named Humberto, who came into the game hitting .175 -- but it set the tone for the rest of the inning, in which there were three more walks and a single, leading to three more runs and that, as the cliche goes, was that.

Seven walks. Seven. You can't issue that many walks and expect to win, particularly when the other team is surrounding those walks with four homers and twelve singles.

This is to say that Cubs pitching, well, just wasn't very good last night in the Astros' 12-4 blowout of the Cubs, a game which was eminently winnable, considering that the aforementioned Astros pitcher had come into the game and left it with an ERA over six, and that the Astros hadn't scored since Friday!

It started well. Todd Walker homered in the first inning and the Cubs added another run after a Derrek Lee walk and Nomar and Michael Barrett both singled. After Houston cut the deficit to one in the bottom of the inning, Matt Murton hit his first major league homer (yay!) in the second, off the RF foul pole.

That was about it for Cub highlights, except for the fourth run, which tallied when Corey Patterson tripled to the deepest part of left-center and then scored when Craig Biggio's throw to third bounced past the base.

Maddening. This team is just maddening. They played extremely well over the weekend against the Cardinals -- even the loss on Saturday wasn't poorly played.

Monday, they reverted to the form they'd shown during the Cincinnati series -- issuing too many walks, not taking advantage of the walks (four) they drew themselves, and Todd Wellemeyer, just recalled from Iowa, was brutally bad -- although, to be fair, three of Wellemeyer's six earned runs scored after he left the game, allowed in when Mike Wuertz gave up a bases-loaded walk, a single, and a sacrifice fly to the first three batters he faced.

So Wuertz looks pretty good in the box score -- it shows two scoreless innings -- but he really wasn't that good either. In fact, when Wuertz came into the game when it was 8-4, I said to the TV (since I was watching by myself at that point, Mark having gone outside before it got dark), "If they can stop this right here, there's still a chance at this game."

Well, obviously, they didn't, and also, a comment I made in last night's game thread didn't work either -- when the Astros took the lead at 5-4, I wrote, "Five runs won't win this game." Oops! Five would have been enough, and it might have been less painful if it had stopped there.

Speaking of bad bullpen performances, Scott Williamson wasn't any good either -- his one inning included a monstrous home run that landed on the train tracks that are just below the roof at Minute Maid Park.

Speaking of which, that train has to be just about the most annoying noise at a ballpark this side of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. I had thought it only went off when a Houston player hit a home run, but they were blowing that horn for each one of the twelve runs.

I have said this before about this team -- their playing style is, in fact, the style of a classic .500 team. Sometimes -- as last weekend, as during their run just around the All-Star break -- they look great, and you start thinking, "Hmmmm! Maybe, maybe, maybe..." -- and then they stink the joint out as they did against the Reds, and last night, and you wonder how a team like this ever wins a ballgame.

Whether or not this team has a miracle in them, I'd just like to see them at least play credible baseball. Compete. Stop walking people!

At least tonight's pitcher, Greg Maddux, knows how to do those things.

UPDATE [2005-8-16 7:41:06 by Al]:

Just finished reading the Tribune's game story from last night, and had to post this Dusty Baker quote:

"We were walking people," said Baker, no doubt having a flashback to a six-walk inning against Cincinnati last Wednesday. "We're second in [the National League] in walks. The top two pitching teams in the league (St. Louis and Houston) are first and second in not giving up walks."
To which all I have to say is...

DUH!