NOTE FROM AL: Due to the quick game again last night, this recap was actually posted at 8:55 pm Tuesday... I've moved it to the top of the front page this morning, for those who weren't online Tuesday night. (This is why it refers to July 1 being "tomorrow" and other references to Tuesday as "today".)
Tomorrow is July 1 and I'm sure the Cubs are happier to see the calendar change than at almost any time in recent team history.
There's no need to go through the litany of bad play and even goofier sideshows that have marred the Cubs' 11-14 month of June, their first losing month since August 2007 (not counting the 0-1 in March 2008).
I'm so tired of seeing the Cubs actually get baserunners in scoring position with nobody out and then have three hitters go to the plate with absolutely horrendous approaches. The eighth inning of the Cubs' 3-0 loss to the Pirates, their eighth shutout loss of the year, is a case study to be dissected by baseball analysts everywhere. (That analysis shouldn't take too long, as the game was over in 2:18, only a minute longer than last night's game and the second-shortest nine-inning game of 2009.)
The Cubs caught a break when pinch-hitter Milton Bradley's sharp grounder that appeared headed to left field was stopped by a diving Jack Wilson. It might have turned into a double play, or at least one out, but Wilson threw the ball past Freddy Sanchez at second base and into right field. Great! Ryan Theriot's at third, Bradley's at second, and the top of the order is up! Runs coming, right?
Wrong. As Len & Bob pointed out, the Pirates were actually conceding at least one run, as teams often will do in such situations; all Alfonso Soriano had to do was try to go the other way with a ground ball, or lift the ball into left field medium-deep, and the Cubs score a run (and likely get Bradley to third with only one out, a chance for two).
No. Soriano strikes out and has a terrible approach to his at-bat.
Then, please explain to me why Lou let Kosuke Fukudome bat against lefthander John Grabow. In that situation, Fukudome has about as much chance of getting a hit vs. Grabow as I do -- and I hit righthanded. If Ryan Freel's going to be on the team, that is the ideal situation to send him up to hit. Nope -- Dome bats, Dome gets called out on strikes. And Derrek Lee then took exactly one pitch from Grabow before hitting a weak ground ball to second base.
Oh, and Lou? What a concept -- John Grabow faced five hitters, four of them righthanded. Do you think Sean Marshall maybe, possibly, could do this sometime? And further, what on Earth was Bradley doing in center field, replacing Fukudome? Bradley's played CF before, sure, but only 15 games there since 2005. Isn't that why Sam Fuld was recalled, to play defense? I can just see Lou's response, had I been able to ask him that question: "I wanted Bradley to have another chance to bat." Sure, Lou -- that only would have taken three men to get on base, an unlikely scenario, and considering the meek way the Cubs went down against Pirates closer Matt Capps in the ninth, a pipedream.
All of this wasted another fine pitching effort by Ted Lilly, who allowed three runs in seven innings. Only two of those runs were earned, the first run scoring crazily on a dropped third strike on which Freddy Sanchez scored all the way from second base. It looked like a good throw from Geovany Soto to Lilly covering might have gotten Sanchez, but Geo's throw was wild.
Here's one good thing about today's game, about the only thing: Jake Fox again played third base competently. When Aramis Ramirez returns -- and it appears his rehab assignment, if it starts Thursday, will end Sunday, because Lou said in pregame remarks that A-Ram should need only "15 to 20 at-bats" -- if he's not at full strength (and who could expect him to be?), Fox could play third base a couple of times a week if needed.
In any case, let's all be glad June is over. July can't be worse.