Far be it from me to look to John Kruk as the fount of all baseball wisdom, but if you saw Baseball Tonight last night, you'll have to admit he had a point.
They ran the highlight of the bizarre play where Johan Santana's bat broke when he hit a ground ball up the middle, only to see the ball hit one of the bat pieces and bounce away from Ronny Cedeno. Marshall waved his arms as if to say, "What the heck?", as if it were Cedeno's fault, which it wasn't. He did strike out Jose Reyes and the inning could have been over, and then he seemed to lose focus, walking Luis Castillo and giving up a two-run single to David Wright, which tied the game.
Kruk said Marshall's body language was all wrong, and he's right. Lou didn't look happy in the dugout, but that didn't stop Lou from praising Marshall after the game:
"Our guy matched [Santana] pitch for pitch there, and actually was doing a little better until the fifth inning," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We need to get [Marshall] back in the bullpen, where he can help us in the middle. He'll pitch a little in the middle in the Milwaukee series to get ready for postseason."
I like Sean Marshall and I think he'll be very valuable in the postseason. But he can't lose focus like that. The Cubs lost the game to the Mets 6-2, not really important in the grand scheme of things, except that it now will require winning out in order to get to 100 wins, perhaps the only remaining team goal.
Meanwhile, Chad Gaudin may have pitched himself off the playoff roster by giving up four hard hits and inexplicably flipping a ball to Derrek Lee on which he had no chance of getting the runner; a run scored on the resulting error, but it would have scored anyway as the Mets pounded Gaudin. Maybe it's the effects of not having pitched in nearly a month, but I'm guessing Lou looks at quite a number of different bullpen combinations before making a decision prior to next Wednesday.
Reed Johnson had been 10-for-19 vs. Santana in the AL and he continued that domination; going 2-for-3, he's now 11-for-22 against one of the best pitchers in the game and that could prove to be important if the Mets are the Cubs' first-round opponent. It was also good to see Kosuke Fukudome get two hits, especially against a tough lefthander. I'd like to see Dome play every day the rest of the week; if he can get back on the track he appeared to be on early in the season, that'd be a real boost to the offense.
It's getting hard to write these recaps; with this much time left until a game that really means something, what else can you say except to use clichés like "playing out the string". With the Brewers also winning last night, the Mets' lead in the wild-card race remains at one game with five to play, and the Cubs may not know who will arrive at Wrigley Field on Wednesday until Sunday -- or maybe even beyond.