The best news about last night's 7-6 Cubs loss to the Mets is: it wasn't postponed or suspended, which would have forced the Cubs to return to New York on Monday to finish up. And, even though we'd have liked to see the Cubs win on a day when Micah Hoffpauir made his case for the postseason roster by going 5-for-5 with two homers, the wins by the Mets and the Brewers last night reduced the elimination number for the Astros (who also won) to one -- meaning that any win by either the Brewers OR the Mets would eliminate the possibility that the Cubs would have to return to Houston on Monday to make up that postponed game.
Now that we've cleared that up, and now that Ryan Dempster has been named the game one starter next Wednesday -- all eyes are on the last playoff roster spot. Will it be Hoffpauir? Lou says he's at least bought himself another start tonight in Milwaukee. But remember this: Hoffpauir won't be starting games in the postseason. He would be on the bench, to serve as a middle-inning pinch-hitter. As a pinch-hitter this season, he is 3-for-13 (all singles) with a walk and seven strikeouts. He isn't really a good defensive player -- there were a couple of balls that got by him at first base last night that Derrek Lee would have stopped, and you wouldn't want to see him in the outfield in a playoff game -- and so, if I were making the choice, I wouldn't make it based on one spectacular game which isn't likely to be repeated. Felix Pie is my pick for the final playoff roster slot, presuming the Cubs do go with 11 pitchers rather than 12 (and Chad Gaudin is rapidly pitching himself off the roster), due to his speed and ability to play all three outfield positions. I'm more concerned about Mark DeRosa, who now may sit out the entire Milwaukee series with the mild calf strain he suffered on Wednesday night.
The loss took away any chance for the Cubs to win 100 games this season (unless they sweep the Brewers AND the makeup game in Houston is played, an unlikely scenario), but if they can sweep in Milwaukee they'd have 99 wins, the most by a Cubs team since 1935. The 840 runs scored is the most since they scored 847 in 1935; only two Cub teams since 1900 have scored more than 847 (both in high-offense seasons: 982 in 1929 and 998 in 1930).
Also last night, Rich Harden made a decent showing in his final start before the postseason, though the five walks is too many, as were the 98 pitches in six innings. Harden gets at least a week off, as he won't throw till at the earliest next Thursday in game two, or, depending on the opponent (Lou might want to throw Ted Lilly vs. the lefthanded hitting Phillies in game two, if they wind up being the opposition), maybe not even till game three on the road. I was surprised to see Koyie Hill catching last night -- he won't be on the postseason roster and Henry Blanco will, and Blanco could use some playing time, too. I assume Hank White will catch at least one of the games in Milwaukee this weekend.
So the Cubs return to their second-favorite park tonight, where they have won all six games they've played there in 2008 against two different teams, where they'll have a fair number of fans -- a quick check of ticket availability for Miller Park just before this was posted shows Sunday's game a complete sellout and only SRO tickets for tonight and tomorrow. TV and schedule reminders: tonight's game has been moved to CSN Plus for Chicago-area viewers, but has also been picked up by ESPN, so it will be available nationally; and tomorrow's game time has been changed to 2:55 to accomodate Fox. Here's the link that normally carries the market listings for Fox games; as of this morning it hasn't yet been updated for tomorrow's games.