On a hot, sweaty afternoon at Wrigley Field, it appeared for a few innings that the Cubs were going to pull another miraculous comeback, and I was all ready to give props to the bullpen for keeping the Phillies down after Sean Marshall stunk it up today, giving up seven runs in less than three innings.
Unfortunately, Will Ohman was "Bad" Ohman today, getting smacked around in his inning of work, and the three runs the Phillies scored put the game away, resulting in a 10-6 Cubs loss; the good news is, the Cubs continue to hold first place in the NL Central by percentage points, because the Mets annihilated the Brewers 12-4 this afternoon, a game that featured not only an inside-the-park HR, but also an RBI double by a relief pitcher, and a near-fight in the Brewers' dugout between manager Ned Yost and catcher Johnny Estrada.
And, the Cardinals blew a 3-0 lead and lost in extra innings to the Pirates, so the Cubs maintain a six-game lead over St. Louis.
Sean Marshall was just bad today -- from the opening inning, despite getting the first two men out and allowing only one run, he got hit hard that inning, again in the second; a HR, double and single. Then he committed the nearly unpardonable sin of walking pitcher Adam Eaton, who was batting for Phillies pitcher Kyle Lohse. Lohse had hit two batters and walked Mike Fontenot with the bases loaded, tying the game at 1, and then left with an unspecified injury. Eaton's a decent hitter (.197 lifetime with 14 doubles in 299 career AB) but to walk him? Jayson Werth and Tadahito Iguchi then drove in runs, and when Marshall got pounded around in the third, Lou had seen enough.
Even at 7-1, I thought that since it was only the third inning, the air was sticky and steamy (conducive to long fly balls), and the wind gently blowing out to RF, that maybe the Cubs could come back if the bullpen could hold the Phillies.
And they did so -- Rocky Cherry, Scott Eyre and Michael Wuertz combined for 4.1 innings of two-hit shutout ball, and the Cubs pecked away, scoring two in the third, one in the fourth, and one in the 8th, and when Mark DeRosa batted for Wuertz with two out and a run in in the 8th, the tying run was in scoring position. DeRosa nearly took advantage of the capricious breeze, which had just died down a bit, but his long fly ball to right was caught on the warning track.
And then Ohman helped the Phillies put the game out of reach. Props especially to Cherry -- who may be sent back to Iowa tomorrow to make room for Kerry Wood on the active roster, although there's some talk that the Cubs may go with 13 pitchers for the next 10 days until the next day off on August 13, which would mean that, perhaps, Ronny Cedeno or Matt Murton might get sent down, although Murton contributed to the not-quite-good-enough comeback with a pinch-hit RBI single in the fifth. Eyre, as he did last night, threw a competent inning of relief, striking out two and lowering his ERA to 5.55 (that may not sound great, but as recently as June 30 it was a Boeing number, 7.07), and if he keeps this up, it's almost like acquiring a good lefthander at the deadline. Since July 4 Eyre has thrown 7.2 innings, allowed three hits and no runs, walked seven and struck out seven. Keep up the good work!
And give the Phillies credit -- this is a good team that's in contention in its division and in the wild card race, too, and though after going up 2-1 in the series you want to take three of four, there is no shame in splitting with these guys. With nine teams within six games of each other (from the 61-47 Mets to the 54-52 Rockies), there's not much to differentiate any or all of them. All of them have strengths; all of them have flaws, including the Cubs.
Today, my college buddy Tom, who grew up on Long Island as a Mets fan, joined us and will be staying through the weekend to see his team, as he does nearly every summer. He tried to get Jeff, Howard and me to give him a chorus of "Let's Go Mets!", as we have spent the week rooting for the Mets and Cardinals (feels sort of unclean, doesn't it?), but we only gave him a couple of weak little chants before we stopped. He did root hard for the Cubs today, I should let you know, but this weekend all of that changes. You should also know that he very much fears having his team have to face Z tomorrow.
The crowd of 40,988 made the four-game series total 163,727, which broke the club record for a four-game series, 161,374, set... two weeks ago when the Giants were in town. That brings the season attendance total to 2,194,882 in 55 dates, an average of 39,907. If that average is maintained for the rest of the season -- a distinct possibility -- total attendance would be 3,232,463, which would break the club record of 3,170,154 set in 2004.
It's fun to go to the ballpark and watch winning baseball -- even fun today in a loss, because the ballclub did rouse a comeback which fell short. You can tell they're out there working hard and trying every single day. Onward to tomorrow and let's BEAT those Mets.