Positive spin. Positive spin. Positive spin.
Oh, the heck with it. There is no positive spin you can put on today's depressing 3-0 Cub shutout loss to the Astros, the first shutout loss since... the last time the Astros were in town a month ago, when they blanked the Cubs and Ryan Dempster on Tornado Siren Night, a game shortened to eight innings by the storms that blew through. Today's sellout crowd, as well as the Cubs bats, were as quiet as those storms were loud.
Today's storm was Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt, who looked like the Oswalt who killed the Cubs back in 2004; Dave, Mike & I agreed that Oswalt's was the best pitching performance we had seen all year. Until he ran out of gas and gave up two hits in the ninth, two bouncy little singles, one by Geovany Soto, one by Ryan Theriot, were all the "offense" the Cubs could muster. They went walkless for the first time since... well, since I can remember, and checking a few boxscores for the last couple of months, I can't remember them going walkless since June.
It felt terrible. It felt depressing. It felt... well, I don't want to go there. Let's look at it this way: with the Mets beating the Brewers 4-2 today, the Cubs don't lose any ground and get another game taken off the schedule. (And though I hate to see anyone injured, if Ben Sheets has to miss any time with the groin injury he suffered today, the Brewers have trouble ahed.) Let's look at it this way: the Phillies, who came in and looked pretty solid all weekend, lost to a really bad Washington team and got no-hit for five innings today. And tomorrow, the Cubs face Brandon Backe, who isn't Roy Oswalt, and Carlos Zambrano will go -- pushed back only two days, so you can take off your tinfoil hat if you're worried about Z and any spin you might have put on the fact that he didn't throw yesterday.
Here's some positive spin: at least the Cubs showed some offensive life in the 9th inning, and had the wind not been blowing in, maybe Derrek Lee's warning-track fly ball would have made the basket (hey! could have been the first use of replay!) and the game would have been tied. Credit, too, to Alfonso Soriano for breaking up what could have been a game-ending DP ball hit by Kosuke Fukudome in that 9th inning with a nice rolling slide, at least giving D-Lee a chance. Soriano also made one catch today without bunny-hopping; instead he did his best imitation of a stork, standing on one leg while catching Darin Erstad's fly ball in the 7th.
And give credit to the Astros, who are 25-10 since July 26, and have done virtually all of that without Carlos Lee, who has been out since August 9.
More positive spin: Jason Marquis did a nice job today, throwing six innings, allowing five hits and striking out eight, the most K's he's had in a game in more than three years, dropping his ERA to 4.46. And although Jeff Samardzija wild-pitched in the third run, he and the just-recalled Michael Wuertz kept the game close.
Speaking of today's recalls, I did not know before reading Koyie Hill had severed most of the fingers on his right hand, his throwing hand, last offseason in a table saw accident. Credit to him for working hard to keep playing and to make it back to the major leagues, even for a September callup, and I think it'd be great if he had even one contribution to the Cubs' playoff run.
Playoff run. Remember that? Do you? It's still going. Even though the Cubs have lost three in a row at home for the first time all season, there is plenty of time left and do not forget that this is a damn good team and they have many more wins left in them, for this month... and next. We'll get 'em tomorrow.