Although, I guess I couldn't blame all of you for thinking, "Well, the Cubs were doing OK until Al started attending games," because I thought the same thing during today's frustrating 4-2 loss to the Astros; that makes my personal record 0-3, a much worse start than last year's 3-0.
Of course, we all saw what that 3-0 start at home in 2006 got us. Nothing, basically.
While the game was frustrating, because I think we all know this team will hit -- and really, I'm a little tired of hearing Lou Piniella blame it on the cold weather, considering the Red Sox, with four players from "the warm countries" (Ortiz, Lugo, Ramirez, Lowell) in the lineup today, scored 14 runs on a 43-degree day at Fenway Park -- there was yet another good sign in the 9th-inning rally that got the tying run on base with two out.
Ultimately meaningless, since a loss is a loss -- but think about it. Last year's team would have gone down 1-2-3 in the 9th, even to a nobody like Dan Wheeler, who's taken over as closer for Brad Lidge (and Lidge was warming up as Matt Murton popped up to end the game). This year's team showed some fight; the double by Jacque Jones nearly left the park, even with the howling northeast wind that made us cold even when the dim sun (no, not Chinese food, I said dim SUN) came out. The key to that inning was the borderline pitch that Michael Barrett looked at for strike three, with only one out and a runner on base. It did appear that was a good call, and on a pitch that close, you've got to at least try to foul it off.
I find it interesting that on the very day that I reinstated Blue Mike to BCB, the same Blue Mike who touted how wonderful Cesar Izturis was to all of us last year, Izturis had what was likely his worst day as a Cub to date, making three errors, including one that led to the Astros' fourth run in the fifth inning. And that could have completely changed the dynamic of the last of the 9th -- if the Cubs have that rally with a one-run deficit rather than two, then they have the tying run in scoring position rather than just on first base, and maybe Lidge (who's pitched terribly this year) is actually brought into the game.
Jason Marquis was... well, not so good today. Actually, after the first inning, he wasn't too bad -- he threw four more innings, not allowing a hit, and allowing just the unearned run in the fourth. But that first inning, in which he gave up four straight hits, all of which were hit very hard, was his undoing. Larry Rothschild waited about two batters too late to come out to the mound, I think -- when a pitcher clearly doesn't have his command early, and Marquis didn't, you've got to stem the tide before it washes over you, and he didn't. Give some credit to Marquis for at least keeping the game from getting totally out of hand.
I was surprised when Marquis didn't bat for himself in the fifth; he was on deck, but after Izturis walked, Lou sent up Ryan Theriot to pinch-hit. We all knew Marquis was coming out of the game anyway, but he might have been a better hitting option than Theriot at that point, especially with the bad start Theriot has had -- and then, when Murton pinch-hit in the 9th, that left only Ronny Cedeno (who was on deck) and Henry Blanco on the bench. What if the game goes into extra innings? Lou's going to have to manage that five-man bench better for such contingencies.
Props today to Angel Guzman and Scott Eyre, who threw four combined innings of three-hit, one-walk relief, keeping the game within reach.
It is still way too early to panic. Even in the last three losses, the club has shown signs of life where previous Cub ballclubs would have simply given up and had the manager shrug and say "Dude" a lot. This team will win.
Maybe not tomorrow, though -- and that's not because of the pitching matchup (favorable, Rich Hill vs. Wandy Rodriguez), but because of this rotten weather forecast:
Ugh. And if you think that's bad, look at this forecast for Milwaukee:
Wednesday Night: Periods of snow. Low around 30. North wind between 15 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 36 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.
They may have a domed stadium in which the Indians and Angels can play in Milwaukee, but how are they going to do it if there are 10 inches of snow outside and no one can get there? The Tribe is going to think the snow is following them around. I'd love to see one of the games in that series, but I'm not driving up there in a snowstorm!
Anyway, if the Cubs and Astros can't play tomorrow, I suspect they'd play Thursday, a common off day for both teams (and Houston has a night game Friday in Philadelphia, so they could easily play Thursday afternoon here).
Finally, the crowd of 35,924 is far more tickets sold than I'd have expected for the second day of the season on a Tuesday afternoon -- it appeared there were about 20,000-22,000 in the park, and the bleachers were pretty well full, including the usual group of drunken frat boys with their shirts off in right field.