There's no way to sugarcoat today's 10-3 Cub loss to the White Sox, so I won't.
As bad as the Cubs looked in yesterday's loss to Baltimore, they just about matched it in looking bad against the White Sox this afternoon -- their first loss to the Sox after six straight wins dating back to a three-game sweep on the South Side a year ago. It's their first loss at the Ballmall since May 20, 2006, a game which was notable for extracurricular activities more than the win or loss.
We won't head back in that direction now -- only say that this had better be a two-game aberration, because this game looked disturbingly like yesterday's. The Cubs had chances in the first and third innings and both times, Derrek Lee erased them by hitting into an inning-ending double play. This is how bad that has gotten -- that's 19 GIDP for D-Lee, a career high for a season for him even though only half this season is gone, and with half this year in the books that would put him on pace to break the single-season record, 36, set by Jim Rice in 1984. I'm worried about D-Lee; after a fast start and a bit of a slump, he seemed to be coming out of it recently, but has looked really bad this week. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to give him tomorrow off.
Ryan Dempster should have taken this day off -- he had absolutely nothing today, allowing seven hits and two walks among the sixteen batters he faced, capped by Nick Swisher's grand slam that put the game pretty much out of reach at 8-0 before the third inning had ended. Frankly, I was surprised that Lou didn't yank Dempster after he walked Jim Thome and Joe Crede to load the bases. Jon Lieber was ready, Dempster clearly had no clue, and maybe Lieber could have come in and gotten a ground ball to get the Cubs out of the inning. If that happens it's only 4-0 and maybe the Cubs make a bit of a comeback, instead of just getting three solo home runs as the proverbial "lovely parting gifts".
At least Lou used Lieber properly, as a long reliever today, having him eat up more than three innings, lifting him only after 53 pitches and a lefthander (Thome) at bat; Neal Cotts came in (to virtually no reaction from Sox fans even though he was a big part of their WS team in 2005) and dispatched Thome to end that inning. Lieber has now thrown two days in a row so don't expect to see him tomorrow.
So all the angst given about Daryle Ward in right field was wasted; Ward had three balls hit to him, all of which he fielded without too much effort. What we really need to discuss here is Eric Patterson.
I don't care about his "versatility". I don't care about his speed, or the handful of walks he's drawn. Eric Patterson is simply not a major league player. He made one error and allowed Orlando Cabrera to take second base on a routine fly ball to left in the first inning, which allowed Cabrera to score on Carlos Quentin's single. Obviously, in the larger context of the game those plays meant little, but psychologically, maybe they eroded some of Dempster's confidence (I can see him thinking, "What's the kid going to screw up next out there?"). Patterson doesn't seem to have baseball smarts. The Cubs really need someone else out there, maybe Matt Murton, who at least can play a competent left field, even if he doesn't hit lefthanded, something Lou seems to be overly obsessed with.
The crowd at the Cell was on its feet early and often, but after the big inning was somewhat subdued, possibly because of the annoying little rainshower that passed through the middle innings, never heavy enough to stop play. Actually, the most annoying fans in my section were a number of drunk Cubs fans, one of whom insisted on whistling very loudly into the ear of a young female Sox fan sitting in front of him. She asked him nicely to stop, and not only did he refuse, but he became nasty. Idiot fan behavior knows no team colors, as I am sure you all know.
The park itself is pretty much the same as it was a year ago when I was last there; because of the multiple renovations and additions there are some oddities that can become irritating. For example, because of the "Fundamentals" thing that was squeezed in above left field, you cannot see the main LF scoreboard from most of the seats from just past 3B to behind the bullpen, probably about 15-20% of the entire lower deck (you can't see it from the lower rows of the bleachers, either, as I found out last year, because a beer stand is in the way). Stopping by my seat was former Vine Line editor Jim McArdle, working on a book about this season, to shoot the breeze for a few innings.
At this writing, fortunately, the Cardinals are losing to the Royals in Kansas City 4-0 in the fifth inning and thanks to BCB reader Galvan316 for starting this FanPost discussion thread for anyone who wants to talk about that game. If that score holds up, so does the Cubs' 4.5 game lead.
It was a bad day at the ballpark (though there was virtually no traffic on my way back to the North Side, unusual for a Friday evening); relax, root for the Royals, and Sean Gallagher's going to get 'em tomorrow.