Let's start with the good news. Yes, there is some.
I like Lou's adjusted lineup, which is now apparently going to be used vs. RHP. I won't flatter myself by saying that I've been advocating this change for some time and thinking anyone actually listened to me, but I really like Milton Bradley in the #2 spot, with Ryan Theriot dropped to eighth. Bradley had exactly the kind of day you'd like your #2 hitter to have -- a single and two walks and a run scored.
Eventually, this is going to lead to more run scoring and wins, but not last night -- the Cubs lost to a very good Rockies team 6-2, after Carlos Zambrano walked off the field complaining that his back was acting up again. With the loss and the Cardinals' win over the Pirates, the Cubs fell a game out of first place, though still one game up in the loss column over St. Louis
Z's departure forced Sean Marshall into an emergency start. Sometimes those things work out, especially when the other team makes lineup changes as the Rockies did last night after learning they'd be facing a lefthander. Unfortunately, last night wasn't the time for it to work -- Marshall struggled through a 41-pitch first inning, allowing three runs, and we might as well have turned the TV's off then, because the Cub offense couldn't generate anything against Ubaldo Jimenez. This Cub team seems to have trouble against pitchers who have hard sinkers like Jimenez -- Justin Lehr the other night in Cincinnati was another example -- and that does not bode well for tonight's game against former teammate Jason Marquis.
Jimenez did keep giving the Cubs chances -- he walked five -- but the Cubs couldn't take advantage. Derrek Lee came up with two on and nobody out in the first inning and hit into a double play. (In case you're tempted to call him "DP-Lee" again, that's only six for him this year, after a team-record-tying 27 in 2008.) That scored a run, but it also set the tone for the rest of the frustrating game. Lee came up again with two runners on in the third, this time with two out, and nearly hit a three-run homer; that would have given the Cubs the lead. Unfortunately, it died in the depths of the Coors Field outfield and was caught right in front of the 390-foot sign in left-center field by Carlos Gonzalez. That ball would have been well up in the left-center field bleachers at Wrigley.
Jeff Samardzija, in relief of Marshall, didn't do too bad a job; his only mistake was grooving one to Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta, who smacked a two-run homer to make it 5-1 in the 4th. Apart from that, Samardzija's job was to take one for the team and eat up some innings with the bullpen forced to throw the entire game, and he did that, although 73 pitches in four innings is more than you'd like to see. Aaron Heilman allowed the Rockies' final run, but didn't walk anyone. Interestingly enough, Heilman now has eight consecutive appearances without allowing a walk. If you think that means he's turning a corner, I think you'd be wrong; in those eight appearances he's allowed three home runs and five earned runs in seven innings for a 6.43 ERA.
There isn't a whole lot more to say about last night's loss; give some credit to the Rockies, who are currently tied with the Giants for the wild card lead. (The Cubs stand two games out of that lead, if you are keeping track.) All the Cubs can do tonight is try to make Jason Marquis remember what it was like pitching after the All-Star break when he was wearing blue pinstripes.
And hope Z's back feels better.