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Cubs Play With Hart, Lose To Braves Anyway 4-1

I haven't looked, but I'll bet the Cubs' record is better when the weather is.

Today's 4-1 Cubs loss to the Braves was as dreary as the 63-degree rainy weather. In fact, I mentioned to Mike that today's conditions were almost exactly the same as they were the day Kerry Wood struck out 20 in 1998 -- except that game was on May 6, when you'd expect the temperature to be in the mid-60's and a chance of rain, which is what that day was like. Today's game was played nearly entirely in a gentle rainfall, which delayed the start by 42 minutes.

July 8 is supposed to be, well, a little warmer than that and so are the Cubs bats. They now rank 15th in the National League in runs scored, which as Lou said in his postgame remarks, won't cut it if the Cubs want to remain in playoff contention. Lou sounded utterly frustrated and tired in the press conference, and also took a little swipe at Von Joshua. Lou and Gerald Perry go back a ways, and it wasn't Lou's call to get rid of Perry. Lou told reporters they should go "talk to the players" about why they're not hitting -- or "talk to the hitting coach", a veiled slam on Joshua. Obviously, the hitting coach is an easy scapegoat, and since that position was made the sacrificial lamb a few weeks ago, the implication is that Von Joshua's tutelage should have had magical results.

It hasn't and the Cubs simply must start hitting. They're better than this.

Today's loss could perhaps have been avoided if outfielders didn't keep letting baseballs dive underneath their gloves. The first, by Jake Fox, didn't really affect anything -- it allowed the hitter, Martin Prado, to advance to second, but he had already driven in Nate McLouth with the first Atlanta run. (And a remark from me to our group: "Who knew Fox was a better third baseman than an outfielder?")

But the second, on an easily fieldable ball hit to Kosuke Fukudome in the ninth inning, was damaging. I'm not quite sure whether Fukudome just didn't get his glove down or whether he took his eye off the ball, but a run scored and Prado, who hit that one as well, wound up on third, where he scored on a wild pitch. The next hitter, Garret Anderson, hit a ground ball that, had the runners still been on first and second, might have been an inning-ending double play.

Speaking of which, the Cubs got jobbed on a first-inning DP ball by Ryan Theriot -- replays clearly showed Fukudome safe at second base. They further got a bad call in the fourth when Casey Kotchman appeared to have grounded into a DP, only to have 2B umpire Derryl Cousins (who was clearly having a bad day) rule Yunel Escobar safe. He was later erased on a fielder's choice -- but think about it: that FC would have ended the inning; it was an easy comebacker. Instead, three more batters hit in the inning and perhaps the entire dynamic of the game would have changed.

Kevin Hart pitched OK, but as was the case when he was up briefly earlier this year, too many walks: five (one intentional). That gives him ten walks in 10.1 innings in the major leagues, way too many. If Ryan Dempster is going to be out for any length of time, the Cubs have to think about putting Sean Marshall back in the rotation, which is why I heartily endorse the FanPost by Chicagosportsfan in which he advocates signing B.J. Ryan, just released by the Blue Jays.

To me, that's a no-brainer Jim Edmonds type of move -- it costs you only the minimum salary; if he's bad you just cut him, and if he's good you have a solid performer for almost no money. Do it, Jim Hendry. This team needs bullpen help badly.

They will also miss Geovany Soto for a while; he strained an oblique muscle during BP and will have an MRI sometime this evening. Lou said we'd know more Friday and that temporarily, Jake Fox could back up at catcher. If Geo is out for any extended period, the Cubs will have to think about dealing for a catcher, because Mark Johnson isn't the answer and I don't think Steve Clevenger is ready.

The sun may come out tomorrow on the off day and it's supposed to be hot and humid by Friday. The baseball gets hotter, too; the Cubs really need to take three of four from the Cardinals. Do that and this series loss to Atlanta hurts less.