Jason Marquis stood on the mound at Wrigley Field, alone on the field, tossing a baseball up and down in his hand. Up, down, up, down, several times. He did this while waiting for the umpires to shift positions and gear after plate umpire Jerry Crawford took ill during last night's 10-7 Cub loss to the Brewers.
Eventually, Geovany Soto came out of the dugout and so did the rest of the Cubs and that's when Marquis, who had been shaky enough in the first couple of innings, completely fell apart. He wound up throwing 98 pitches in five innings, allowing ten hits and five runs, and none of the Cubs' relievers could provide any relief last night -- the only one who didn't have a run charged to him was Michael Wuertz, but he added to the carnage by walking in a run that got charged to Kevin Hart. Even the usually-reliable Jon Lieber got touched for Milwaukee's tenth run, after Mike Fontenot's bases-clearing double had turned a 9-4 apparent rout into a 9-7 "hey, maybe they can come back" score.
It wasn't to be, and although Lou Piniella had sharp words for his bullpen in his postgame press conference:
"Our pitching wasn't good tonight," Piniella said. "We've got to do a better job in the middle before we get to our short people. That's been a problem for awhile."
... that wasn't the main problem. The main issue last night was the fact that Ben Sheets also wasn't sharp after the delay; he wound up walking seven, but the Cubs left most of those runners on base, leaving seven in the first five innings. Had they taken advantage of those opportunities, they could have had Sheets bounced before the sixth, when he was eventually lifted for a pinch-hitter (having thrown 108 pitches), and gotten into the Brewers' 1,325-man bullpen -- which managed to shut the Cubs down in the 8th and 9th after Fontenot's double.
The other important thing last night was... well, let me tell you first about one of the funnier vendors I've seen. He walked by our section, a youngish man I hadn't seen before, carrying the metal hot-dog vending box, yelling, "Who wants a friggin' hot dog??" That generated both laughs and sales (not from me, since I had already had one earlier).
And that's the other thing. Speaking of friggin', it was friggin' cold last night. The official game-time temperature was 38, and though there was some waning sun in the western sky until it dipped below the buildings on Clark about 7:30, that sun never warmed anyone at Wrigley Field yesterday. The wind wasn't too strong -- Derrek Lee managed to loft his 8th HR of April, tying the team record for such things, into the LF bleachers in the third inning, making the score at the time 4-3 -- but it was just enough to make it so feeling my fingers and toes wasn't really possible after about that time. Despite the cold, BCB reader steinmer and a friend of his stopped by in the late innings to say hi. They were some of the few who stayed -- once the score got to 9-4, the place emptied out pretty quickly. Well, except for the Human Air Raid Siren, who decided, since our section was empty, to stand there (mostly in our way) to yell for a few minutes, until we were rescued by a guy wearing a Fukudome sweatshirt who wanted him to come to his section. He left and we didn't see -- nor hear -- him again last night.
Positive note: there's nothing wrong with Geovany Soto. He had two hits last night, including a double, and continues to pound the ball really hard.
There's not much more that can be said about this loss -- the Cubs' first of the season when they have scored four or more runs. Lou, in his press conference, gave credit to the Brewers, who do, after all, have some pretty good hitters, and not just Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, who are both off to slow starts. Corey Hart (who I advocated the Cubs acquiring a year ago) had three hits including a double and a triple; Bill Hall singled three times and had two RBI, and Mike Cameron, in his first game of the year following a 25-game suspension, also had three hits. Sometimes you just have to give credit to the other guys.
With Ryan Dempster, who has been solid all year, and Carlos Zambrano, who at last is pitching like the ace we need him to be (and with his sinker working as it did when he first burst onto the scene in 2003), going tonight and tomorrow, I still like the Cubs' chances of winning this series.
Did you know Wrigley Field had a Jumbotron? Well, it doesn't, of course, but it now does have this large monitor on the side of the camera house in CF:
Finally, Felix Pie was involved in a scary-looking collision with Rickie Weeks in the second inning, and didn't get up for a couple of hold-your-breath moments. He probably just got the wind knocked out of him, as he stayed in the game. David caught the aftermath: