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This Offensive Juggernaut Rolls On

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Just after Aramis Ramirez, representing the winning run, struck out to end another frustrating Cub loss, 5-3 to the Marlins, I said, to no one in particular:

"Well, at least they made it a game."

Dave spoke first: "That's Cub talk!"

Meaning, of course, we should NOT settle for "making a game of it".

And of course, he's right. Instead of a stirring 9th-inning comeback, the Cubs managed to put the game out of reach early by any number of poor plays, including:

  • Sean Marshall's first-inning error which led to a run (other than that, Marshall threw another credible game, even though I don't think he threw a single pitch over 90 MPH)
  • Alfonso Soriano's failure to catch a reachable ball with two out in the 8th inning, allowing Scott Eyre's first (of two) runs to score. Yes, it wasn't an easy play. But a good major league left fielder has to make that play.
  • Michael Barrett allowing Reggie Abercrombie (I said to Mike, "The Cubs should get him for one spring training, just so we can say, 'Abercrombie's playing at Fitch'") to steak two bases absolutely uncontested in the 9th inning, allowing Eyre's second run to score on a sacrifice fly. While Eyre didn't pitch all that well -- allowing four hits and two walks -- he could have gotten out of both innings unscathed, with better defense.
Which would have made the stirring 9th-inning rally a meaningful one, especially with the tying run on base and Derrek Lee and Ramirez due up. Those are, in theory, the guys you want at the plate in game situations -- but Kevin Gregg, one of the more experienced pitchers in the Marlins bullpen (four years, two postseason appearances with the Angels) struck both of them out, throwing 96 MPH at both of them, and give Gregg credit where it's due.

But the game was lost far before that, and you shouldn't have to mount a six-run rally in the last of the ninth to win against a pitcher (Byung-Hyun Kim) that you've beaten like the proverbial drum the only other times you've faced him as a starting pitcher.

The title of this post comes from something else Dave said several times throughout this yawner (and the word "offensive" can mean whatever you want it to mean) -- which was what it was until the 9th -- the Cubs left eight men on base in the first eight innings, and five different times they got a runner on base after two were out and no one was on base. That's not the best way to start rallies, as Mike reminded me, and Ramirez actually helped squelch one of them by being caught off first base after leading off the sixth with a single, when Barrett sent a soft line drive to Dan Uggla at 2B.

What more can you say? The Cubs played both well (pitching was fine, except for Eyre), and poorly (Eyre, defense, failure to hit with men on base).

Defying those who think people don't go to games on Memorial Day (I saw some comments to that effect in the game thread), the largest crowd of the year so far, 41,630, showed up on a day that started cloudy, then cleared out to bright sunshine (even though they'd turned the lights on, unnecessarily), and finally clouded over again just as the final out was recorded. The pace was Trachselesque (a word we invented in the first inning as Marshall was slogging through a 25-pitch first inning, meaning languid, taking way more time than necessary, etc)., and "blowing it all up" isn't really an option, because...

... the Brewers lost again, so the Cubs are still only five games behind, still in second place. I commend you to this Sportsline column on the Comedy Central, titled appropriately "NL Central a joke with multiple punchlines", with this description of the Cubs' bullpen:

Bullpen's idea of a good night is if it emerges with only second-degree burns.

Just about right, that. But if you think the Cubs are the only team in trouble, remember when the Brewers were 24-10, with the best record in the major leagues? And many of you thought they'd be running away with the division? They've lost 13 of their last 17.

In addition to the usual folks in left field, I was joined today by David Geiser, who's better known here as BCB reader dvdmgsr (and who I've known since our days frequenting the Cubs newsgroup; I had to ask him whether the Cubs had ever won when we'd sat together. He reminded me of a Carlos Zambrano shutout a couple of years back, so he's forgiven), and false cognate (from Houston) and his girlfriend. They're all invited back despite the loss.

Finally, rumor has it that the Cubs are zeroing in on either Matt Wieters or Josh Vitters as their #1 choice in next week's draft, or possibly one of several high school pitchers (maybe Matt Harvey or Rick Porcello). Personally, given the dearth of good catching in the organization, I'd choose Wieters. Even if he doesn't pan out as a catcher, if he can hit, he could perhaps be moved to a corner OF spot.

Just in case we don't have enough corner outfielders already.