Juan Mateo and three Cub relievers combined to throw eight innings of two-hit, twelve-strikeout, shutout ball, and the Cubs defeated...
Oh, wait, no they didn't, because that was only EIGHT innings, and in the OTHER inning, Carlos Marmol issued two walks, a single and gave up a three-run homer to David Ross, and that's all the Reds needed to shut out the Cubs 4-0, their second shutout loss in the last three days (I had to edit this post, because I originally had it as back-to-back shutouts. It only SEEMS that way. (Thanks to escapegoat for pointing this out in the comments!)
Mateo, as you likely know, left after three innings of no-hit, two-walk, three-strikeout ball, with "back trouble". Oddly, Marmol was warming up in the second inning, yet Mateo was sent out to throw the third anyway, and he got out of it with just a walk issued to Brandon Phillips. Marmol, who had a lousy inning yesterday against the Dodgers (three runs, one batter retired), continued his string of bad appearances, throwing only ten strikes in his twenty-five pitches, seeing his ERA balloon to over 6, and he took the loss.
I don't get David Ross -- do you? Before this year he had a lifetime average of .217 in 424 AB, with 19 HR, playing for three different teams. This year he has the same number of HR -- 19 -- in HALF the number of at-bats. It makes no sense at all.
There were some other good things in today's game, in addition to Mateo's three decent innings -- the rest of the bullpen threw quite well, particularly a guy that most of us have made fun of as having the name of a car-was owner. Les Walrond threw three one-hit innings and struck out five; he lowered his ERA from 10.57 to 7.59 and Dave said he might even think of Walrond being a useful situational lefty next year. I wouldn't go that far, but he did pretty well against a good-hitting lineup.
More important was the ninth inning David Aardsma threw -- two strikeouts, including Adam Dunn; in Aardsma's last 11 appearances he has now thrown 17 innings, allowed 8 hits, one earned run, walked seven and struck out 18. That's still a few too many walks, but if he can harness his control, and keep developing the offspeed pitch he's been working on, perhaps we have a closer candidate for next year.
Which we may need. Ryan Dempster apparently was quite upset last night after the game, even starting to stow stuff from his locker, and wouldn't talk to some of the regulars who he normally will kibitz with after the game; we also spotted him running laps around the ballpark before today's game, wearing a sweatshirt and shorts. No one but a few of us bleacher season ticket holders waiting to get in recognized him; I was hoping he'd make one more lap so I could take his picture, but he must have disappeared into the ballpark.
It was a sunny day, one of the low-humidity, mid-70's (73 at game time) late-summer afternoons that you'd like to bottle up and let out in, say, November when the wind is whipping whitecaps up on Lake Michigan. There were quite a few Reds fans in evidence, and there were around 30,000 in the ballpark out of the announced crowd of 37,188; tomorrow, I'd expect a nearly full house. The bleachers were almost full today. As I was leaving, I spotted a young couple -- she, wearing a Ryne Sandberg jersey, he, wearing a Reds Pete Rose jersey.
Somehow, I don't think those two are going to make it.
I heard one rumor today that I will pass along to you, and I do think it has some credibility -- Alfonso Soriano has reportedly let his agent know that the Cubs are his top choice club for 2007, and to play second base. As you know, I have in the past not been a Soriano fan. However, he seems to have raised his game to a higher level this year; he's established a career high in walks, hit a ton of doubles and HR, and after the little brouhaha after he briefly walked out on the team in spring training, has played LF without complaint. He's not a very good second baseman, but with Derrek Lee at first, that could minimize some of his errors. This signing would be one of the bold moves that MUST be made in order for this team to start contending. I do not subscribe to the theory that you can't turn it around in one offseason. It CAN be done, IF the club is willing to take chances, spend money, and make those sorts of moves, particularly in the present-day National League, which is filled with mediocrity. Also, I learned today that it is almost a done deal for Aramis Ramirez to return (terms unknown), and that the club is working on an offer to Juan Pierre. I'm not sure what I think of that latter idea; it all depends on how much, how long, and how much the offense can be improved at other positions.
Finally, since this is my site, I am going to let all of you know that from various friends who have extra tickets for Saturday, I have up to five available bleacher tickets for tomorrow's 3:05 game. Email me using the link on the right sidebar if you are interested; Rich Hill is scheduled to pitch, if you'd like to see him throw on a beautiful, sunny, 80-degree day, here's your chance.