Throughout last night's game I kept looking at the clock in my house, thinking, "Damn, this game is going fast!"
Too fast, as it turned out. One pitch -- the one from Michael Wuertz, one of only nine he threw (eight strikes), that Jason Bay just managed to deposit into the right field seats above the scoreboard at PNC Park -- cost the Cubs the ballgame. They lost 3-2 to the Pirates, finished in two hours, thirteen minutes, barely a blink these days.
It's the Cubs sixth one-run loss against zero wins. This cannot be viewed as good in any way, shape or form.
Rich Hill threw yet another good game -- seven innings, six hits, one walk, two runs allowed, six strikeouts. Any modern major league starter who throws this sort of start ought to expect to have a "W" next to his name in the box score 99% of the time, at least if he's pitching for a team that has pennant pretensions.
Does this mean the Cubs don't? Or that we should give up, twenty-four games into a season where, again, at this writing only one team in the Cubs' division has a winning record? Heck, no.
But a good team's bullpen has to step up and hold the opposition until your offense gets going, in games like this.
Let's talk about Matt Murton, who has become, unjustifiably so, a whipping boy from some around here. Those who bitched and complained that Dusty Baker wouldn't give Murton playing time last year (and note: I am NOT in any way advocating Baker here!) ought to be doubly bitching at Lou Piniella, because he's given Murton even less playing time than Baker did. Murton has started only ten of the 24 games so far -- undoubtedly robbing him of any chance to get any consistency at the plate. It showed last night -- he had four mediocre at-bats, and maybe the suggestion that Murton should be the one to go to Iowa when Angel Guzman is recalled to start (likely this coming Sunday vs. Washington) is a good one. At least he'd be getting regular playing time, something that's apparently not available on a Cub roster that contains, essentially, three right fielders.
That, of course, wasn't the only problem. The Cubs left ten men on base, including RISP in the second, third, fifth, seventh (left the bases loaded), and eighth innings, so that when Bay's shot gently landed in the seats, you knew the game was over -- I've seen this so many times, when a game that appeared well in hand for most of its length (a 2-1 lead into the 7th inning) suddenly turns, with only three outs to go, the trailing team almost always submits meekly. Even at that, they managed to get the tying run on base with two out, when Ryan Theriot walked -- didja see that, Dusty? Theriot walked three times last night! Of course, Baker probably would have benched him the next day for clogging up the bases like that.
0-6 in one-run games isn't good. But note: the runs scored/allowed ratio still doesn't match the 10-14 record; 112 runs scored and 88 runs allowed should result in a record about reversed from that, and those kinds of things do tend to even out over time. Further, if the Cubs have a team ERA of 3.61 (where it stands this morning) at the end of the season, they are going to win a lot of ballgames. The ERA ranks sixth in baseball (fourth in the NL).
Stat note: Derrek Lee's two hits mean that he has reached base in all 24 games this season.
The 10-14 April is the Cubs' first losing record in that month since 2002 (8-16). OK, so that year didn't turn out so well -- but then, neither did some of the last four years, in all of which the Cubs had winning Aprils. Time to turn the calendar page and start winning.