I feel it in the air, the summer's out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets, the sun goes down alone -- Don Henley
Not two minutes after the last out was recorded in the Cubs' spectacular 11-3 win over the Reds this afternoon, the darkening skies opened up to a downpour, before I had even walked the two blocks to my car. Fortunately, I had brought my umbrella along. (Good thing they got the whole thing in before the storms, too -- we heard early that had there been a rainout, they were making plans to make up the game at Wrigley Field on Thursday.)
That was about the only darkness in a beautiful, sun-filled, warm last-day-of-summer (knowing the temperature here is going to drop into the 60's by tomorrow) event, wind howling out to center field, and the scrub Cub lineup pounded out a season-high six home runs, three of them in the first inning. This is payback, in a way; since the Reds did quite a bit to knock the Cubs out of the 2004 playoffs, perhaps this series and the one next weekend will end Cincinnati's wild-card hopes.
Before I say more about this game, let me note something that all of you found out about either on the game telecast or through this article on the Cubs website: (we didn't hear about this at all in the ballpark, so the first I heard about it was when I got home)
Lee's had a lost season baseball-wise, but nothing is more important to him, I am certain, than taking care of his daughter, his only child. Along with all the rest of you, I am certain, I wish Derrek and his family nothing but the best, they will all be in my thoughts, and I hope for Jada's speedy recovery.
It's almost as if Derrek's teammates went out on the field and bumped up their games a little bit in solidarity with their teammate's troubles. I know this doesn't seem logical, but sometimes things like this do happen. Everyone hit -- Ryan Theriot hit two homers, Jacque Jones, Ronny Cedeno (onto Waveland Avenue through a tiny little opening in the back LF fence), Matt Murton and Carlos Zambrano all joined in the HR fun today, and Z looked good on the mound, too, finally being lifted after 109 pitches and seven innings (we were all hoping Dusty would let him bat for himself before taking him out, but as Mike and Dave correctly pointed out, why risk the chance that he'd hurt something swinging, or get hit by a pitch, in a game that was 11-0?).
Z is now 15-6, and moved ahead of Jason Schmidt into fifth place in the NL in ERA, which dropped to 3.38. His six strikeouts put him back in the league lead with 194. He'll get at least two more starts and possibly three, if he still has a chance at winning the Cy Young Award on the last day of the season (he'd have to go on three days' rest). His home run was his fifth of the year; only Fergie Jenkins in 1971 had more, among Cub pitchers.
On the downside, the four walks he issued make 108; the last Cub pitcher to walk more than that was Bill Bonham, who walked 109 in both 1974 and 1975. Since 1938, a pennant year when Clay Bryant walked 125 (in 270 innings), the highest walk totals for a Cub pitcher have been:
At his current pace, presuming Z does get the three more starts, he'll wind up with around 120 walks -- and though that seems like a lot, it wouldn't even be close to the top 100 seasons of all-time, which ends at 156 walks (granted, there are a lot of 19th Century pitchers on that list, when pitchers routinely threw 300 or more innings).
And yet, he wins, and doesn't seem to be bothered by it, except for this back problem which apparently isn't related to his pitching -- according to this article:
"We're born like that, all Zambranos are born like that," he said. "My dad has a problem with that, too."
He does wear orthotics to correct the imbalance. He also can't skip his back exercises.
"It's always there," he said. "It's like the doctor told me in the office this morning, 'You'll always feel it if you're running or riding the bike or playing with your daughter or playing basketball -- after that you'll be sore.'"
About Ryan Dempster's poor inning of work -- four hits, three runs, ruining what could have been the Cubs' second back-to-back shutouts of the year -- Dave and I both noticed that his arm motion seemed odd, and that perhaps he's hiding an injury. This is exactly what I thought back in the first two months of 2004, when Joe Borowski was getting lit up like this, and it turned out he did in fact have a serious injury. I understand why professional athletes, competitors, want to play through this sort of thing -- but really, this late in a lost season, if Dempster's hurt, just shut it down and get it fixed.
Today, we were joined again by Matt Burtz (BCB reader gauchodirk), who reminded me that his record in the bleachers this year was 1-7. With the win today, I invited him to come back during the Milwaukee series. I also wanted to tell all BCB readers about the final results of Jenna's Mitzvah Project, since today was the day that she got to go on the field and get her name on the scoreboard; while she sat in the box seats, her mom, dad and brother joined us in the bleachers, to let me know that thanks to the generosity of everyone who bid on the various eBay auctions she posted, (not sure why that "nasty used tube sock" shows up in that search!) over $3000 was raised for the worthy causes Jenna wanted to help (the "Best Seats in the House", though not bought on eBay, were eventually purchased). I know a couple of the baseballs were won by BCB readers (including one that I myself got outbid on!), so -- thank you for all your generosity, because it's things like this, and what's happening with Derrek Lee's little girl, that remind us of what's really important in the lives of the human beings who play the games we love to watch.