In the 9th inning, Mike said: "I don't think I've ever seen a one-run game that seemed more listless than this one."
There! 23 words to sum up the Cubs' 5-4 loss to the Astros last night.
Naturally, this is going to wind up a bit longer than 23 words, but as is my custom on the morning after night games when there's a day game following, I'm going to keep this fairly short, since there will be an open thread for today's game posted in a couple of hours.
I'll just say that the Cubs had plenty of chances to get Roy Oswalt out of the game, to take advantage of baserunners, and failed almost every time. That's hard to do when you actually score four runs, but here's how they did it:
- They had RISP with less than two out in the second, third, fourth, and eighth innings, and managed to score one run each time.
How did they accomplish this? Primarily by hitting into double plays -- two by Matt Murton, and one by Aramis Ramirez on the second pitch he saw from Chad Qualls. This, after the first three batters had reached off Qualls, with one run scoring on a generously-scored infield single by Phil Nevin (it probably should have been an error on Adam Everett, or at best, a fielder's choice).
Taking pitches. Qualls threw only 18 pitches in his inning, despite giving up the three hits. Phil's friend Tom, who sat with us again, asked me to bet how many pitches Brad Lidge would throw in the ninth. I didn't take him up on this, but he said "Fifteen", before the inning started.
Lidge threw fourteen pitches in dispatching the Cubs quickly in the ninth.
A one-run game? It never seemed that close. Greg Maddux threw OK, though he had a second inning where he got hit hard, giving up three runs on five hits, including a single to Oswalt, who entered the game hitting .107. He did, as usual, field his position well, snaring four grounders that most pitchers would have waved at as they went by into CF. If not for that, he might have given up even more runs.
The problem is, of course, that Maddux is winning, when he wins, on smoke & mirrors & guile. It's always been partly that way for him, but when he was younger he could at least throw in the low 90's. I don't think I saw a single pitch Maddux threw tonight that showed a speed over 84 MPH on the little board underneath the upper deck. He can fool people quite a bit of the time with location and movement, but if he misses even a little bit at that velocity, he's going to get hit, and that's what happened in that second inning.
It sprinkled for about half an hour before the game started, but by game time it was just cloudy and coolish. Sort of like the Cubs' bats all year. Mike said he can't remember another year when there have been fewer HR hit at Wrigley Field, up to this point, and of course, most of that is the fact that the home team has hit the second-fewest number of HR in the majors -- 50. Only the Royals (46) have fewer.
It was just Mike & me and Tom (and his wife Ginger) tonight, so about the 2nd inning a couple asked if an older man with them could sit down.
"Sure," I said. Well, this gentleman, who immediately announced that he was 86 years old, started talking nonstop about the old days when he used to come and watch the Chicago Cardinals play the Bears at Wrigley Field, and how great a player Babe Ruth was because he threw four no-hitters (um, nope), and how the players today ought to bunt when they get runners on with nobody out (he said this even about Ramirez in the 8th -- now, of course you don't do this with a power hitter, although it'd have been better than a double play), and talked about his World War II service, and on and on and on...
Well, it was entertaining, up to a point.
Mike also said that he had the sense, and I agree with him, that after thirty-four years without being involved in one, the Cubs seem likely to be involved in a no-hitter this season -- either Carlos Zambrano will throw one (he's come close a couple of times already this year), or given the impotence of the offense, someone might no-hit the Cubs one day this season. And no, I wouldn't rather have that than a Cubs win.
Maybe it'll be today -- Z is throwing against Astros rookie Fernando Nieve.
And it now appears more and more likely that Mark Prior will pitch on Sunday against the Tigers. He'll throw on Friday and then a decision will be made. As of now, the rotation for the Detroit series is ... [gulp] Glendon Rusch on Friday, Carlos Marmol on Saturday and Sean Marshall on Sunday. But, if Prior is ready, Marmol could go on Friday on "normal" rest, Rusch -- or even Angel Guzman, who threw two innings Tuesday -- could pitch on Saturday, and then Prior Sunday, saving Marshall for the first game of the Cleveland series on Monday. About Prior, it's time he got out there. There's no point in more minor league starts. Just pitch.
There'll be a game thread posted in a couple of hours. It's always fun to watch Z pitch.