Milton Bradley said he'd be "surprised" if he didn't have a good game today. Well, surprise, Milton. He had a single in five at-bats and reached on an error in another AB. And before I get to the bullpen meltdown which gave the White Sox an 8-7 win over the Cubs, I'm going to say some words in defense of Milton.
I spent a lot of time watching him today. During batting practice he was taking his turn in the cage, then each time he left, he picked up a rather long conversation he was having with Ryan Theriot. It seemed as if both were interested in what the other was saying; I have no idea about the content, but Milton was engaged with a teammate, and then during the game I saw him clapping his hands happily after Derrek Lee drove in the second run of the third inning, tying the game.
It's clear to me this: that Milton Bradley does have a great passion for winning baseball games, for succeeding at his craft, and is at the very least supportive of his teammates. All of this may be, paradoxically, his great failing -- because he's trying far too hard. I think Milton puts too much pressure on himself to succeed, and as he was quoted as saying yesterday, he's the kind of guy who wants to do his job quietly and then go home. That simply isn't possible with the Chicago Cubs and because he has such a large contract. The expectations -- whether realistic or not -- are probably too much for someone of Milton's personality. I actually feel badly for him, as he's probably not in the right situation for him. I still hope he does turn things around and hit the way he did last year, for that would be good news for the Cubs.
Now, on to the failures of today, which had nothing to do with Milton (although, he did leave two runners stranded in the eighth inning). The Cub offense kept generating runs, allowing the team to overcome 2-0, 5-3 and 7-6 deficits. This is good -- especially when some of the offense came from Andres Blanco, who's not in the game for his hitting, and Alfonso Soriano, who is showing signs of coming out of his slump.
The bullpen was horrendous today. Ryan Dempster didn't have one of his better games, but when he left after the top of the sixth, the Cubs had given him a 6-5 lead and the chance at a win. Aaron Heilman disposed of that quickly by giving up a long triple to the .193-hitting DeWayne Wise and an RBI single to Scott Podsednik, who tortured Cub pitching all day by going 4-for-5. Sure, Heilman wound up striking out five in his two innings, but it took some more shoddy defense by the White Sox, who made three errors, to give the Cubs the lead back in the top of the 8th.
Carlos Marmol -- and I think we all have to agree, something's got to be wrong with him -- coughed the lead right back up. In his one inning of work he at least threw strikes today (18 in 26 pitches), but the slider wasn't working and he didn't strike out anyone.
But the worst offense was committed by Lou. When he put Sean Marshall in to start the ninth inning, I thought, "Good! We're set for two or three innings, especially since you don't have to worry about his batting order slot coming up." But no -- Lou used Marshall, as he's used him almost since he went to the bullpen, as a LOOGY, facing lefties Jim Thome and A. J. Pierzynski (who he retired) and Paul Konerko, who hit a looper into LF for a single. Hey, Lou: Sean Marshall has been a starting pitcher, in case you hadn't noticed, and can retire both lefthanded and righthanded hitter. Instead, Lou yanked him after only eight pitches and went to Jose Ascanio after Jayson Nix was announced as a PH. Jayson Nix, who is hitting .219 and who came into this game 1-for-8 in his career as a PH. You don't think Sean Marshall could have retired this guy, Lou?
Ascanio walked him and then gave up the game-winning single, a fly ball that Milton Bradley almost did catch up with in right-center field to force extra innings.
We talk about the Cubs needing a bat and they do, and I think they will go after someone in the next couple of weeks. But this bullpen is an utter mess. Only Angel Guzman was throwing well, and he's a week away from returning -- though I did see him shagging flies in left field during BP and throwing balls in with seemingly no trouble. I don't know if there's help available at Iowa -- other than Jeff Stevens, I'd say probably not -- or if there could be help available simply by Lou not misusing Sean Marshall.
This series is still winnable and I like tomorrow's pitching matchup. Final notes: the loss dropped the Cubs' record in one-run games to 11-14. The 25 one-run games is tied with the Brewers for most in the NL and only the Mariners, who have played 32, have more. And, do you think the White Sox had Jake Fox scoped out today or what? He went 0-for-5, all five at-bats resulting in a fly ball to center field.