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A Tale Of Two Ballgames

Cubs pitchers today threw eight innings of one-hit, two-walk, ten-strikeout baseball.

Unfortunately, in the other inning, two Cubs pitchers allowed five hits, three walks and a hit batter, leading to all six Cincinnati runs in an ugly 6-5 loss to the Reds, made even worse by the fact that the Cubs had roared out to a 5-0 lead in the first four innings.

It was inexplicable. Carlos Zambrano was rolling, easy, even though he had walked two in the first four innings, he'd given up only one hit and had two himself, including his first home run of the season, an opposite-field shot in the fourth. We were all half-jokingly saying that when Z finally had to be yanked after allowing, in order, in the fifth: two singles, a walk, two more singles, a double, and a hit batter, that "there went most of our offense".

Maybe someone ought to tell Z that it's really June, and that it's not actually cold out (and it wasn't today; it was a pleasant 51 degrees, just a little bit of wind, and bright sunshine), because he appeared at first today to be his old self, and then completely lost it in the fifth inning.

Still, when Z left the game the Cubs still had a 5-4 lead, and I believe Will Ohman has to take the blame (even though not the loss) for this one, walking in two runs.

And props to Michael Wuertz for coming in with the bases still loaded and striking out the side to keep the game close.

It was then that Dave said, "Let's get into this really bad Reds bullpen," and I figured the Cubs still had a shot at the game.

Nope on that, too: five Reds who relieved Aaron Harang (Jon Coutlangus, Victor Santos, Rheal Cormier -- how old IS that guy, anyway? -- Todd Coffey, and ex-Cub David Weathers) shut the Cubs down on four hits over the last five innings; there was an abortive ninth-inning rally that did get the tying run, in Jacque Jones, to second base, with the right guy at the plate -- Cliff Floyd (think about last year -- that would have been John Mabry up there), but Floyd flied out to Josh Hamilton in left (he'd been moved there from CF, replacing Adam Dunn, taken out for defensive purposes) to end it.

Frustrating. One of the reasons, I think, that Ohman may have walked those two batters, as we all noticed in the LF corner, right behind the bullpen, is that Lou Piniella probably yanked Z too quickly. Now, don't take that the wrong way -- Z obviously had lost it and needed to come out. But they needed to stall a bit longer, as both Ohman and Wuertz had just gotten up and neither of them had thrown more than a half-dozen or so pitches in the bullpen, and I don't think Ohman was quite ready to come into the game. Even two minutes more worth of stalling around the mound would have warmed Ohman up a bit more; Lou stalked out there, a man on a mission, and had signalled to the bullpen before he even crossed the foul line.

And add to that the news that Aramis Ramirez' wrist, which he first jammed in spring training, swelled up and he had to be sent to see a doctor, and today was a complete and utter disaster.

To try to change the Cubs' lack of luck at home so far this year, Howard brought bagels and cream cheese from Einstein's instead of the usual Jimmy John's sandwiches. The best thing, he said, was that the cool temperatures would keep the cream cheese cold.

Oh, well. Better luck next time on that one, I guess. I had three of them (way too many, I think), trying to change the Cubs' luck, but NO luck on that score.

The announced crowd of 37,627 was late to arrive -- people were still streaming in the Waveland gate in the second inning -- and I'd say there were probably 30,000 in the house. That won't happen tomorrow -- not with this weather forecast:

Saturday: A chance of rain and snow before 1pm, then a chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 44. East northeast wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

That's all I can say today. It's frustrating. This team can do better than this. However, it is still too early to panic. Rich Hill will try to right the ship tomorrow.