Six days ago all of us were reveling in the fact that the Cubs had moved percentage points ahead of the Brewers into first place; they even moved the flag on the scoreboard to the top spot.
So why now is there so much angst? The Cubs lost 5-2 to the Astros last night, and looked bad doing it; but with the Brewers blowing a 3-run lead and losing big in Colorado, 11-4, giving the Rockies two five-run innings in the process, the Cubs remain this morning only one game out of first place, still even in the loss column.
There are fifty games remaining; the Cubs have a 58-54 record. If they can go 30-20 -- and they've played better than this over a previous 50-game period this year -- I believe that, which would result in 88 wins, would be enough to win the Central.
They're not going to do it playing the way they did last night, though. I'm kind of tired of reading articles like this one which blame the last two losses on the loss of Alfonso Soriano. Soriano hasn't hit that much since the All-Star break, and he doesn't appear to have "40-40" in him this year.
Would Soriano have made a difference in the first inning last night? No, because Ryan Theriot led off the game with a walk. When was the last time you saw Soriano do that? The failure was in the middle of the order. You might say that missing Aramis Ramirez last night was at fault, but the bottom line is -- other players have to step up; everyone knows Ramirez has to sit from time to time because of his knee troubles. The Cubs could have had Woody Williams out of the game early; scoring only one run out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation is asking for the momentum to shift, and it did.
Sean Marshall threw well enough; Kerry Wood allowed two of his inherited runners to score, so even though Wood's ERA remains at zero, and the boxscore says the bullpen did a good job, it really didn't. Had Wood been able to retire Carlos Lee and Ty Wigginton, the Cubs would have pulled to within 3-2 on Matt Murton's subsequent HR and perhaps, then, would have been able to come back.
I hate the pulled-in infield, incidentally. How many times have you actually seen that work? And how many times have you seen a hitter slap a ball that would have resulted in an out if the infielder had been in his normal position, right through? Are you telling me that a shortstop couldn't throw to the plate from twenty feet further back? I wish Lou would stop doing this.
There isn't much more to say, other than that Eric Patterson got his first major league hit, a bloop over Astros SS Eric Bruntlett's outstretched glove. He also struck out twice. That isn't necessarily an indictment of him, as the rest of the team struck out eleven times. Still, I'm not sure that he's the answer to anything at this point. The Sun-Times recap linked above says:
And Hendry said only that he and his staff are working the waiver wires for possible help.
Well, at least they're thinking about acquiring someone. I'm still on the Jose Cruz bandwagon -- I know some of you have scoffed at that notion, but the guy can play all three OF positions, has a bit of power, and will draw walks. He was released, thus could be acquired for nothing. If he's terrible, just release him again. I also know the Cubs have had some interest in Jonny Gomes; Gomes, too, has some power (13 HR this season so far in 199 AB) and had a big game last night, 3-for-4 with a HR and 4 RBI. I don't have any specific knowledge, but I imagine Gomes has cleared waivers and the Cubs could get him if they really wanted him, though Tampa Bay has been in the past difficult to deal with.
So, tonight Carlos Zambrano has to, once again, play the role of "stopper", this time stopping a three-game losing streak, the team's first in two months.
Notes: Will Ohman claims he's hurt and thus shouldn't have been sent down. Note, though:
So -- this was only an issue AFTER you were sent down, Will? Read between the lines and you'll find the real reason:
Well, waah, waah, waah, Will. You mean with that $2.5 million, two-year deal you signed last year, you couldn't have bought a couple of plane tickets for your kids to see their grandparents?
This team is better off without him, for quite a number of different reasons, it would seem.
After the Cub game ended I flipped on the end of the White Sox/Indians game to hear how Steve Stone fit in with that other guy they have in the booth. Surprisingly, Stone seemed at ease, and did one of the things he does best -- called a couple of pitch sequences perfectly. Stone will be calling Sox games the rest of this week, as Darrin Jackson is in Arizona with his wife, who had their fourth child yesterday. If you don't live in the Chicago area and want to hear Stone, the Sox game vs. the Mariners on Saturday at 6:05 CT will be on WGN.
Finally, I have only this to say about Barry Bonds' breaking of Hank Aaron's HR record last night: Bonds now has hit the most home runs in major league history. But that does not make him the greatest HR hitter. There's a difference. This massively talented individual, who was a first-ballot Hall of Famer before he (allegedly) took a single steroid, has always been a great baseball player. If only he'd accomplished this feat without a cloud of suspicion over his head, I'd be more willing to celebrate this historic event. Instead, I simply note, as I did when he hit HR #752 and #753 at Wrigley Field last month, that we are witnesses to history.
Now let's get back into first place tonight.