Roy Halladay? Cliff Lee? Who needs 'em?
Over the course of several decades, the Cubs have made midseason acquisitions of starting pitchers in the hopes that hurler would help lead them to the postseason and glory beyond. From Milt Pappas to Dennis Eckersley to Rick Sutcliffe to Rich Harden, these pitchers have had varying degrees of success in accomplishing that goal.
But not since Hank Borowy, acquired from the Yankees on July 27, 1945, threw a 3-2 complete game victory over -- ironically -- the Cincinnati Reds two days later, has a Cubs pitching acquisition debuted with such a splash as Tom Gorzelanny did last night in Cincinnati. (Harden came close to doing what Borowy and Gorzelanny did in his first start with the Cubs on July 12, 2008, but he threw almost as many pitches -- 96 -- in 5.1 innings as Gorzelanny did in 7.1 last night, and that was the game where Carlos Marmol helped blow a 7-run lead; the Cubs eventually won in 11 innings.)
Gorzelanny was outstanding, throwing an efficient 98 pitches (66 strikes) in those 7.1 innings, and not allowing a run while he was in the game (the only run he was charged with scored on a Joey Votto single off Sean Marshall).
Can we expect this every time out from Gorzelanny? Of course not, but he showed the form that allowed him to have a fine season with the Pirates in 2007. His velocity was fine, touching 90-91 MPH; he located his breaking pitches well; and his pitch count in the middle innings had him on target for a possible complete game (and maybe even a shutout) until he ran out of gas in the eighth inning.
Meanwhile, the offense was carving up Johnny Cueto; Kosuke Fukudome hit his first career leadoff homer (and is now hitting .367/.479/.583 in the second half), but the game remained close until the sixth inning, when Koyie Hill's two-out, two-run double gave Gorzelanny some breathing room at 3-0, and then The Amazing Gorzelanny (it does sound like a lounge act or magician act, doesn't it?) helped himself with an RBI single.
Derrek Lee chipped in with his 22nd homer, which tied his 2007 season total for the most he's hit since his monster 2005 season. He's on pace to have a 34 HR, 110 RBI season -- any of you who were hollering for him to be dropped in the lineup, benched or DFA'd were obviously dead wrong. It may have taken this long -- three years -- for D-Lee to fully get over the effects of his 2006 wrist injury; he is on pace to get back to the offensive level he showed in 2003 and 2004.
I would have liked to see Jeff Stevens, rather than Angel Guzman, finish up last night. The Cubs had a 6-1 lead going into the ninth inning and that's a perfect time to not overuse one of your better relief pitchers. Guzman did not have a good outing, giving up a two-run homer to Wladimir Balentien (doesn't that name look misspelled to you? It's not) and putting another runner on base before ending it. Guzman threw 22 pitches -- many of them unnecessary -- so does that make him unavailable tonight? Once again, this points up the worthlessness of a 12-man pitching staff, because all year, Lou has had someone in the pen, whether it be David Patton or Stevens, that he simply won't use. Stevens now hasn't pitched in a week -- why bother having him on the staff at all?
In fact, with Gorzelanny being activated last night while Andres Blanco went on the DL with (yeah, right) a calf injury, the Cubs actually had 13 pitchers on the active roster for yesterday's game. What would they have done had Ryan Theriot not been able to continue after being hit on the inner arm near the elbow in the third inning? Play Mike Fontenot at SS and Alfonso Soriano at 2B the rest of the game? Tonight (unfortunately), Aaron Miles will be activated and either Stevens or Jeff Samardzija will be sent back to Iowa. You make the call on whether that's a good or bad thing. (I think we all agree on the answer to that one.)
Apologies to all here for forgetting the first pitch thread last night; I got busy during the day and had intended to schedule it as always, but forgot. Thanks to santoswoodenlegs for posting the "emergency" thread.
The complaint department is now closed. The Cubs maintain a first-place tie with the Cardinals after the woeful Mets bullpen blew another game and St. Louis beat them 12-7 in 10 innings; Albert Pujols hit a grand slam in the 10th to put that game away. Note to Cubs management: do not ever, ever, pitch to Pujols with the bases loaded. He now has 10 plate appearances with the bases loaded this year. Results: 7-for-9 with 5 HR and 24 RBI (the one non-AB plate appearance was a sac fly). The five grand slams ties him with Ernie Banks for the single-season NL record. Walking him with the bases loaded: better idea, you give up only one run instead of four. The Cubs will know before their game starts tonight whether they can pick up a full game on St. Louis, because the Cardinals and Mets play a day game in New York today. Onward.