Or was it just a bump in the road, a season-worst in runs allowed (and worst inning allowed), before the Cubs right their ship this weekend against the Pirates?
Perhaps instead of looking back at this game, a look at what can happen to even good teams at this time of year would be instructive. Just about a year ago, the Dodgers, who had been nosing around first place in a NL West that looked pretty mediocre, went through a stretch where they lost 11 of 13. That included an eight-game losing streak and when that streak was over, LA stood 4.5 games out of first place -- and that was on August 29, when only 27 games remained in the season. The Dodgers then went 19-8 and won the NL West.
That was accomplished with no change in personnel, no magic formulas -- a team simply got hot and did what they needed to do. (Incidentally, the somewhat flawed 2003 Cubs also won their division by going 19-8 in September.)
That's really all this Cubs team needs to do -- play the way they are capable of, and get two injured pitchers off the DL (which will happen within the next week). And there is also no doubt that the Cubs are a far different club without Aramis Ramirez in the lineup. Ramirez has started 42 games; the Cubs are 25-17 with him in the starting lineup, 33-37 without. And had A-Ram been available to pinch-hit on Tuesday night, perhaps we're talking about winning this series vs. the Phillies instead of salvaging one game. Hopefully, Ramirez will be able to play today and at this point, I think he's got to try to play through the pain until the season is no longer salvageable.
About the game itself, there's no need to rehash Jeff Samardzija's horrendous performance in his first major league start. In his postgame remarks Samardzija kept mentioning how he was "too amped up" and overthrowing in the first inning, which helped lead to three extra-base hits and a pair of runs. Too amped up? Really? A professional athlete who in his college days played football for one of the biggest of the bigtime programs and regularly played in front of 80,000 people? If that's the case then Samardzija may have to reconsider his career choice.
In any event, there's little doubt that the Cubs have done him no favors by jerking him up and down from Iowa all year, letting him rust on the bullpen bench and then suddenly in the course of a week's time expecting him to start and win against the league's best offense. The better course would have been to leave him at Iowa all year and simply let him start every fifth day and work on perfecting his repertoire.
Sean Marshall wasn't much better last night, giving up two homers in the disastrous fourth inning. If Marshall could have stopped the Phillies where they were -- leading only 5-1 instead of ending that inning with 12 runs -- maybe the Cubs could have mounted a comeback. Instead, a lot of people started leaving or were forcibly removed -- I'm referring to the guy who was yanked out of the bleachers for allegedly dumping a beer on Phillies OF Shane Victorino as he was catching a Jake Fox sac fly in the fifth inning. You can continue that discussion in SamFels' FanPost. (According to the Tribune's Paul Sullivan, they tossed the wrong guy.)
All the Cubs can do is try to come back and win today against the tough Cliff Lee. Four games is not an insurmountable deficit on August 13. Keep the faith. (And keep the beer in the stands, please.) The game preview thread will be up at 11:30 am CDT.