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Note To Dusty Baker...

... do not, I repeat, DO NOT, ever start Greg Maddux against the Diamondbacks again!

The D'backs gave Maddux his first loss of 2006 in a 5-1 decision over the Cubs last night. Greg is now 1-9 lifetime vs. Arizona, with a 5.21 ERA. The D'backs are the only NL team against whom he has a losing record.

It's inexplicable, although both Maddux and Dusty Baker tried to explain it. First, Maddux:

"I just don't pitch good here," Maddux said. "I always leave a couple balls over the plate, and you give them credit for hitting them. You give yourself a pep talk [before pitching here] every time. Mentally, I'm fine."

I'm sure he will be fine for his next outing Monday in San Diego. Now, Baker's explanation, also from the above-linked article:

Manager Dusty Baker wondered if it wasn't the fast infield that hurts Maddux, a ground-ball pitcher.

"Everybody has a nemesis," he said. "I know the infield here was real fast, and he relies a lot on defense."

Well, I dunno. There were a few sharply-hit balls that scampered past the infield, but the "fast infield" wasn't the cause of Chad Tracy's three-run homer, the only really bad pitch Maddux threw, and only the 2nd HR he's allowed this year. Good news: he didn't walk anyone, and the bullpen did a good job (three innings, two hits) of giving the Cubs at least a chance of coming back.

At which they failed miserably. How is it that you can have eleven hits and six walks (!) -- that's seventeen baserunners, in case you're keeping track -- and score ONE run?

That's a poor offense. Four double plays is part of the answer, including another in what seems to be becoming an ongoing mini-series called "Let's Double Jacque Jones Off Second Base". Frankly, I'd rather see no further episodes of that series. There's a lovely article in today's Sun-Times about Jones and how he credits his mother with helping him grow up in a tough part of San Diego, and yes, that's really, really nice...

... but right now, I'd rather see Jones earn his money playing baseball, which, after all, is his job, and right now, he's not doing that very well.

With those eleven hits the Cubs did have chance after chance, although they were all singles except for an Aramis Ramirez double. You know the offense is in trouble when the only run of the game scores on a bases-loaded walk. To the pitcher.

Would acquiring Tony Clark have helped last night? Maybe, maybe not. As noted, 17 baserunners (11 LOB) ought to produce more than one run, and one player's not going to make a huge difference in such a game. In any case, this article says the Cubs aren't pursuing Clark, but still might try to acquire Jeff Conine (please, no. Are the Orioles that pissed at the Cubs for the Patterson and Sosa deals?) or Kevin Millar (a better idea, but acquiring Millar would have been a FAR better notion four years ago. The Cubs have a pattern of acquiring guys like this several years after they SHOULD). The bottom line is -- they've got to get some help, and soon. There were so many situations last night in which Derrek Lee would have been exactly the guy you'd have wanted at the plate.

Bone to pick: I was at a meeting last night which ended about 20 minutes after the game started. Turning the radio on, I heard WGN pause for a station ID, and then Pat Hughes come back on by telling us who was there (he and Ron), where they were (Chase Field in Phoenix), and DIDN'T GIVE THE SCORE!! I managed to find it on my cellphone before they gave it on the air.

Seriously. Radio announcers never give the score often enough, and I think sometimes they forget that not everyone listens to the entire game, that there are many who tune in halfway through and that, of course, is the first thing anyone who does that wants to know: WHAT'S THE SCORE?

Just sayin'.

Finally, courtesy of Jim at AZ Snakepit, here are some photos from last night's game.

Aramis Ramirez bats; Matt Murton on deck

Greg Maddux pitching in last night's game

Dusty Baker signing autographs, toothpick firmly in place

photos by Jim McLennan