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An Innocent Little Walk

Remember a week or so ago when Dusty Baker uttered this immortal line during one of his game telecasts, after a leadoff walk followed by a home run?

Who would have thought that an innocent little walk would lead to two runs?

Well, it was exactly that at Wrigley Field today in another frustrating loss, 1-0 to the Reds. Ted Lilly, who threw what was otherwise a spectacular game -- six innings, two singles -- walked Brandon Phillips to lead off the fourth inning. He stole second uncontested when Michael Barrett dropped the ball, and scored on Jeff Conine's single.

And that was it. The Cubs had four hits off three Reds pitchers -- three of them by Ryan Theriot, the other a double down the line leading off the sixth by Alfonso Soriano -- and two walks, and couldn't do anything with any of the baserunners, stranding all six of them, including Derrek Lee, who walked with one out in the ninth, giving brief hope.

I'm going to take issue with those of you who, in the game thread comments, said Mike Quade should have sent Soriano on Theriot's single. It's only the sixth inning, there's no one out. Yes, Ryan Freel doesn't have a great arm, but the hit bounced easily to him and he'd have thrown even the fast Soriano out by twenty feet. And then all of you would have been screaming that Quade was the second coming of Wavin' Wendell. It was, unfortunately, the right call. I say "unfortunately" because both of the next two hitters struck out, guys (Jacque Jones and Lee) who should be able to hit a simple fly ball to tie the game, and Jones in particular had a horrendous at-bat, flailing wildly at an 0-2 pitch; shades of last year with that, and he'd been doing quite well in the K department up to then (and even including today, that's only four K's for him in 41 at-bats). If the identical situation occurs in the 8th or 9th inning, absolutely, then send him. But not in the sixth inning of a 1-0 game.

We were all almost treated to a Lou tirade. Edwen Encarnacion was ruled out on a foul tip to end the fourth inning, and threw just about everything in sight around the field (except his helmet, which would have cost him an ejection). Jerry Narron came out of the dugout to ask the umpires to confer -- this after both teams had already left the field. Can you imagine how Lou would have screamed if that play had been overturned? He was standing on the top step of the dugout ready to pounce. Fortunately, the umpires realized that there was no way they could change the call at that point, and they let it stand. Interestingly, the plate umpire was Doug Eddings, the guy who made the A. J. Pierzynski call in the 2005 ALCS... sometimes I wonder how that guy still has a major league job.

I should have known things weren't going to go our way today when Phil showed up without his Lou bobblehead -- and then, somehow, went back downstairs and used his sales skills to get one. When he came back and opened the box, the head was broken off. So he had to go to customer relations to get a non-broken one. Can you imagine how Lou's head would have been bobbling around during the above-mentioned argument? We're still waiting for his first blowup on the field -- he has, as you know, already had a couple of them in the post-game news conferences.

Here's my actual bobblehead. It doesn't really look like him, does it? Although, the head does bounce around quite nicely:

Think Lou knew what he was in for when he came here? He may have managed the Yankees, but that was in the '80s, before they were under the intense scrutiny they now face, and the sort of daily ESPN scrutiny that any manager of a team with expectations as high as the Cubs faces.

Still -- how can you complain about a pitchers' duel like this? The Cub staff, about which we all worried, has now put up quality starts in 8 of the 11 games -- and two of the bad ones were from the guy who is supposed to be the best pitcher in the rotation. Lilly was terrific today, striking out ten (FWIW, his 24 strikeouts now lead the NL and are only one short of Johan Santana for the ML lead. Yes, I know that won't last); it's just that Kyle Lohse was just a bit better than he was today. The 25 combined strikeouts are a lot, but not anywhere near the record; that's 30, and was set in this game, one with which we are all familiar.

It was easily the nicest day of the year so far, with bright sunshine and a game-time temperature of 51 degrees; with fairly light winds it was comfortable in the bleachers, though there were still quite a few in the upper deck huddled up in blankets, something I understand can go on up there well into May, with the wind blowing off the lake.

This series was obviously frustrating -- the Cubs outscored the Reds 12-7 in the series but won only one out of three. Yes, 4-7 isn't the sort of record you'd like to have after 11 games, and yes, I saw the comment in the game thread saying that no Cub team has ever made the postseason when starting 4-7 or worse. So what? Those teams aren't this team. We've been through this before -- plenty of clubs have started far worse than this and made the playoffs, and conversely, there are teams that have started off great and wound up sucking (excellent recent example: the 2005 Dodgers, who started 12-2 and wound up with 91 losses).

Let's give this another couple of weeks, through the little interregnum of series vs. the Padres and Braves, and a go-around with more division rivals, before having to tear this club apart. I know this much: there's a guy in charge who won't sit around and wait for things to happen before making changes. That's a good thing.

Notes: if you haven't seen today's "Get Fuzzy" strip, click here. The author is a huge Red Sox fan... but I think he's dissed us a little bit. All in good fun, I suppose.

Finally, there will be another installment of the SBNation Sports Report tonight, live at 7 pm CT. Tonight's guests are Matt from Blog-A-Bull and Matt from Pounding the Rock (the Spurs site), to break down the NBA playoffs, and Tim from Battle Red Blog (the Houston Texans site) will talk NFL Draft, the SB Nation Mock Draft, and other NFL news. And maybe there will even be some baseball talk.