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Hey, Z! Anytime You'd Like To Show Up, That'd Be Fine With Us

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Oh, man (and sure, that could apply to Will Ohman's appearance in this game, as well as just being an expression), was this one a mess. The Cubs got blown out by the Dodgers 11-3 today, and I know you all want to hear what I have to say about the ... well, "performance" in quotes is about the best I can do ... appearance today of Carlos Zambrano (I couldn't even bear to read the game thread comments, for fear they might burn a hole in my laptop screen).

But first, let me all let you know that we were witness to a major league record today (and no, Chuck, not a negative record against the Cubs).

Taiwan native Chin-Lung Hu took the field in the 8th inning at shortstop (and for some unfathomable reason, Grady Little didn't double-switch him when he brought in Scott Proctor to pitch, so Hu didn't get to bat) ... his second major league appearance. Hu has broken the major league record for the shortest last name. There has never before been a major league player with a two-letter last name.

This also brought forth a large number of really horrible "Hu's On Short, Not On First" jokes from our assembled little band, and trust me, you don't want to hear them. It was about the only thing we could do to have any sort of amusement after the Dodgers scored ten runs from the fourth through the sixth innings, breaking open what had been a close game that the Cubs actually led 2-1 (hard to believe now, right?), and when things looked pretty good after Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a home run on the second pitch that Esteban Loaiza threw in a Dodger uniform.

That, and watching the runs pile up on the scoreboard for the Pirates (against the Cardinals) and the Astros (against the Brewers); both teams lost (there was a very large cheer that went up when the Astros' four-run eighth inning was posted, and again when the 9-7 final in favor of Houston was posted). Consider this: on a day when the Cubs looked positively awful, so did their division competitors. The Cardinals gave up as many runs as the Cubs to a team not nearly as good, and didn't score. The Brewers blew a three-run lead in the eighth inning.

So a day has gone off the calendar and the lead is maintained. You can't ask for more than that on a day when yesterday's hero, Derrek Lee, bounced into two rally-killing double plays. The Cubs did have baserunners -- thirteen of them, through ten hits and three walks -- but three DP's (including Craig Monroe's in the 9th with the bases loaded, when it really didn't matter, anyway), killed most of the scoring opportunities. Only eight men were left on base.

One of them wasn't Carlos Zambrano, who had singled leading off the third, and when Soriano followed with a double, ran through a stop sign (I was afraid he might even knock 3B coach Mike Quade over, he was barrelling around third so fast) and was easily tagged out.

This sort of thing seems to unhinge Z -- he lost it in the top of the fourth, walking three and giving up two hits, and the three-run carnage in the fourth could have been worse if Henry Blanco hadn't thrown Jeff Kent out trying to steal second.

It got worse in the fourth -- after two more walks and two more hits, Z was yanked in favor of Will Ohman, and that's where I think he may have lost the support of so many people who want him to succeed so badly. Z was jawing at some people behind the dugout who were giving him grief, and that's just plain wrong. If you're a professional athlete, you have to understand that even as much as we fans may love you, you've got to perform, or you risk getting booed, even in your home park.

Just sit down, Z, and reflect on your performance of the day -- which, until the fourth inning, was actually pretty good -- two hits, one run, and four strikeouts. Instead he wound up with his worst outing of the season, and the first time he's allowed eight runs (earned or not) in a single game since June 22, 2005 vs. Milwaukee. (Today and that 2005 game are the only two times in Z's career that he has been charged with eight earned runs in a single start.)

There have been some suggestions that Z needs to have a turn skipped, and I think that may have some merit. Today was the sixth straight poor outing from Z (excluding the three rained-out innings vs. the Cardinals on August 19), and with Steve Trachsel now on the roster, the Cubs could easily skip a turn of Z's, or push him back a few days. Someone needs to sit down and talk to him, calm him down, I'm not even sure what, but there's clearly something wrong with him, and I can't even tell whether it's physical, mechanical, psychological or all of the above.

Speaking of Trachsel, I spotted someone wearing a 1997-vintage (could tell because it had that year's Jackie Robinson patch on the sleeve) Trachsel road jersey, with his old number 46. It had to be a game-worn uniform, because who would have bought a replica of that one, in that year?

There were a couple of bright spots today. One of them wasn't Sean Gallagher, who got hit pretty hard in his two innings of work; but Scott Eyre and Michael Wuertz both threw hitless frames, combining for five strikeouts, although by then Hu and some of the other Dodger bench players were in the game. Lou also got a chance to give some of his regulars a few innings off in a game that, oddly, didn't make me feel as bad as a tough one-run loss would have. Maybe it was because I knew the Cardinals and Brewers had both lost well before the Cub game was over (the Brewer game slogged on forever, three hours and fifty minutes), and thus even with the blowout, no ground was lost. All the Cubs can do is pick up the pieces tomorrow with Trachsel. (I've been warned to bring a pillow tomorrow night, with Trachsel's penchant for working v...e...r...y ... s....l....o....w....l....y ...) .....

Oh! Sorry! Nodded off there for a moment. Keep the faith. Try to stay awake tomorrow, and I'll bet the Cubs will come out looking like winners again.

One final note: I have four extra bleacher tickets (price: $30, face value) for tomorrow night's game. Anyone who wants one, or more, email me using the link on the right sidebar.