Photo by Al
Carlos Zambrano's bobblehead may be smiling in that photo as he stands above the Wrigley Field stands before the game, but I'm sure he's grumbling the same way the rest of us are after today's frustrating 3-2 Cubs loss to the Diamondbacks.
To be fair, the Cubs really had no business even being that close. Rich Hill had absolutely nothing today -- had trouble locating all his pitches, and walked four, throwing an alarmingly high 115 pitches in six innings. Yet, he got outs when he needed them, including a strikeout of Chris Young to end the sixth inning, his last, with a runner on base, and left the game in a 2-2 tie, thanks to Angel Pagan, whose two-run triple with nobody out in the fourth inning scored the only runs the Cubs would get on this gloriously sunny afternoon, a bit cool (announced game time temperature: 68, and when visiting friends in the shade in the main part of the ballpark, it was almost cold there), but one of those days you dream about when you're freezing your butt off in January.
And that triple, in fact, was another part of the problem, because it gave the Cubs the lead in the 4th, and they had Micah Owings on the ropes with Pagan on third and nobody out... and couldn't get him in. Koyie Hill popped up, Rich Hill struck out (after having one of the better at-bats by anyone, much less a pitcher, the inning before, fouling off four pitches before leading off the inning with a single... and himself being stranded on third base), and Alfonso Soriano, who seems in a mini-slump, flied to right.
The Cubs left RISP in the first, third and fourth innings, and had Owings on the ropes several times. Then Bob Melvin made his smartest call of the day -- Owings had thrown a ridiculous number of pitches, 95, through four, and so Melvin yanked him in favor of former Cub Juan Cruz, a pitcher who was once ahead of Zambrano in the Cub minor league hierarchy, but who never panned out.
Unfortunately, the Cubs got nothing in return for Cruz. Well, that's not quite right: they got Richard Lewis -- regrettably, not this Richard Lewis; at least he would have provided some laughs, and Andy Pratt, and getting "nothing" would have been better than Andy Pratt, because he posted a 21.60 ERA in four Cub appearances, throwing 1.2 innings and walking seven.
Meanwhile, Cruz meandered his way through Atlanta and Oakland and now is throwing lights-out for the Diamondbacks, and that's what he did today, facing nine batters over three innings, walking one (Mike Fontenot, who was erased on a caught stealing), and striking out four, and getting the win when Stephen Drew homered off Bob Howry in the top of the 8th.
And there, I have a bone to pick wih Lou Piniella, and I haven't picked many this year. Why was Howry in the game, after having thrown 18 pitches yesterday AND fifteen pitches the day before that? Carlos Marmol had faced only one batter, throwing only three pitches, yesterday -- he should have been in the game throwing the 8th inning, not Howry.
And that, as they say, was that. There was brief hope after Mark DeRosa walked with one out in the 9th, and one out later, Cliff Floyd was sent up to bat for Koyie Hill, but he popped up to end it against Jose Valverde, whose 29th save ranks him one behind Francisco Cordero for the NL lead. Sometimes you just get beat. As I said, given the fact that they gave the Diamondbacks ten hits and four walks this afternoon, the Cubs really didn't have any business being as close as they were (Arizona left eleven men on base), and in fact, it could have been closer if not for the error leading off the game by Aramis Ramirez on Chris Young's shot down the LF line; the resulting first-inning run was unearned.
Incidentally, I was given half of the remains of a rally donut by Jessica, because none were available at the 7-11. Eating it accomplished nothing, and so my feeling is that the donut has to be eaten by the person who buys it. Thus I will look around at other 7-11's for one tomorrow.
If the Cubs can keep things close even when things are going pretty much wrong for everyone on the ballclub, they're going to win a lot of games. Win this series and a very successful homestand will be completed tomorrow. And at this writing, Tim Lincecum of the Giants is shutting out Milwaukee 3-0 in the last of the 7th; if that holds up, no ground will be lost.
Say, that bobblehead doesn't look a whole lot like Z, does it?