Since the Cubs were probably singin' the blues all the way to Detroit last night, where their plane landed about 1:20 AM Eastern time, a few pop culture references won't hurt here, right?
In 1978, the Cubs managed to stay in contention (they were only 3.5 games out of first place in the NL East as late as September 3) despite having one of the least powerful offenses in modern memory. They hit only 72 home runs -- and only Dave Kingman, who had 28 in his first year with the team, hit more than nine (Bobby Murcer was second on the team with that total, after having hit 27 the year before). Still, they somehow managed to score 664 runs, which ranked fifth in the National League.
One wit (and if I could remember who, I'd give him credit) dubbed it the "Rush Street offense" -- i.e., "lots of singles, no action".
Without fear of contradiction, I can call last night's 2-0 Cubs loss to the Braves exactly that, since the Cubs put ten singles on the board and drew three walks. One of the 13 baserunners was erased on a double play, leaving 12. The Cubs left RISP in the first (after the double play!), sixth, seventh and ninth innings. Someone else will no doubt look this up, but I cannot remember the last time the Cubs -- or for that matter, any team -- had ten hits in a game and got shut out.
This all wasted yet another fine effort from Ryan Dempster, who left the game with two out in the 7th having thrown a somewhat-alarmingly high total of 118 pitches. A walk got him in trouble in the 3rd; that resulted in the Braves' first run, the only one they needed.
Lou decided to rest both Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley last night. Whether having them in the lineup would have made any difference is something we can discuss endlessly, but Bradley did pinch-hit in the 9th inning and struck out. Pinch-hitter is a role Bradley isn't, apparently, well-suited for. In his career, Milton is now 3-for-26 (all singles -- there's that single thing again) with eight walks as a PH. Incidentally, Milton is one of 32 former Montreal Expos who have played at least one game in the major leagues this year (so is Ted Lilly, in case you didn't know. Hat tip to Chuck Hildebrandt for the list which he posted on a SABR mailing list to which I subscribe).
And so is Javier Vazquez, Atlanta's starter last night, who has been much better over the course of his career in the National League (not including last night's game, career ERA in the NL: 4.15, in the AL: 4.52). He kept getting into trouble with all the singles, yet kept finding ways to get out of trouble as well. The White Sox may eventually get some value out of that deal with Tyler Flowers, who is an excellent prospect, but for now, advantage Atlanta.
Speaking of deals, the wasted detour to Atlanta once again shows that even after Aramis Ramirez returns (which may or may not happen soon, depending on who you ask, Lou or A-Ram), this team needs another bat. Ryan Freel, on a rehab assignment, isn't the answer. In addition to a certain Cleveland Indian, targets might include Mark Teahen of the Royals, and since the Diamondbacks may soon be sellers, what about Chad Tracy (presuming he's healthy)?
Onward to Detroit, for the Cubs' first appearance there since 2001, and the Cubs' first DH games of the season.