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Cubs Lose 11-5, Fall Two Games Out - But Cubs Win, Too! (Iowa Cubs, That Is)

Most of what I'm going to write about today's game is going to be from the boxscore and a bit of following along by cellphone while I was at Wrigley Field watching the Iowa Cubs defeat the Las Vegas 51's 5-4.

Let me first praise Milton Bradley for having perhaps the best day he's had in a Cubs uniform -- 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI, raising his average to .266 and his OBA to .401. In seven August games he's now hitting .450/.571/.550 -- and I think he's now in the perfect spot in the batting order for him, second. Clearly, he puts too much pressure on himself to produce when he's hitting in a RBI spot (fifth, much of the year), and batting him second gives him a real chance to be on base, as we have seen, more than half the time this month (after posting a .457 OBA in July). He's playing good defense and running the bases well.

It's not exactly what Jim Hendry had hoped for when he signed Bradley last offseason, but this type of production is something we haven't seen from many -- or really, any -- Cubs players over the last ten years or so.

I won't pin today's loss on Randy Wells, either, though he struggled and allowed seven runs (five earned) in 5.1 innings. His defense deserted him and the Cubs made three errors in all, and Jeff Stevens got hit pretty hard in his inning-plus of work, putting the game, which resulted in an 11-5 Cubs loss, out of reach. Combined with the Cardinals' come-from-behind win over a really bad Pirates team (thankfully, the Cubs get to play them next weekend), the Cubs now sit two games behind St. Louis.

Mostly, I'm going to pin this loss on the offense, which generated 17 hits, including six extra-base hits, but couldn't get many of them home. The Cubs left RISP in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 9th innings -- ridiculous, in my opinion, and left 13 on base all told. It was clear that Lou Piniella had no interest in watching this mess -- he got himself tossed in the second inning.

There's still a chance for the Cubs to split the series (and road trip) against a very good Rockies team tomorrow night... so, look forward to that, and below the fold is my recap of the Iowa/Las Vegas game.

Travis Snider is the guy I was hoping the Cubs would select in the first round of the 2006 draft. Instead, they selected Tyler Colvin; he's been dissected many times on this site, and after seeing Snider pound out a pair of homers at Wrigley today, I'm holding to my position that passing on Snider (who was picked by the Blue Jays with the pick right after the Cubs) was a mistake. Snider, who is only 21 (three years younger than Colvin), has already had a couple of cups o' coffee in the major leagues (posting a .736 OPS with 5 HR in 172 AB) and will likely be in the Blue Jays' starting outfield by 2011 at the latest, perhaps even next year.

That was the parlor game to play today, given that this, unlike last year's "Road To Wrigley" game, was a Triple-A game: "How many players in today's game have played at Wrigley before?" Snider wasn't one of them, but I counted no fewer than six (Buck Coats, Marty McLeary, So Taguchi, Luis Rivas, Bobby Scales, and Micah Hoffpauir), seven if you want to count Justin Berg, who was on the Cubs' 25-man roster briefly last month, warmed up a couple of times, but didn't get into a game. Howie Clark, a 35-year-old veteran of six major league seasons, has also played against the Cubs and former Cub minor leaguer Brian Dopirak has surfaced again in the Blue Jays organization.

How weird must it have been for Micah Hoffpauir, who was in the major leagues with the Cubs all year till Friday, to return to Wrigley as an Iowa Cub? (He got loud ovations every time his name was announced.) His average shown on the scoreboard was blank, which means today was his first minor league game of the year (if he had any AB without hits, it would have shown as .000). I suspect when the Cubs sent him down, they probably told him simply to go to Chicago and wait for the Iowa team to meet him there. Hoffpauir had a bloop double in four at-bats and played both first base and right field. Iowa hitting stars were John-Ford Griffin, who homered onto Sheffield (I was surprised there weren't more homers, with the temperature a stifling, humid 87 degrees and the wind howling out to CF at what was reported at 11 MPH, but it had to be at least twice that), and Darwin Barney, who had a pair of hits.

John Gaub, who has put up gaudy numbers since being promoted, was called on in the seventh, issued a walk and struck out Howie Clark, and then was yanked -- couldn't possibly let him face a right-handed hitter, right? (Granted, it was Randy Ruiz, who has 106 RBI in 113 Triple-A games this year.) Vince Perkins came on and retired Ruiz on a fly to center.

The game is played at just a slightly slower pace than a major league game. You can clearly see why certain players are at that level and can't get any higher, or, as in the case of guys like Clark, Ruiz, Coats and Taguchi, are hanging on, trying to get one more shot at a major league game. The Las Vegas third baseman, Kevin Howard, who got into some of the antics with the "Zooperstars" mascots who appeared today, is in his seventh year in the minors with his seventh organization and you could see why today -- he made two throwing errors on routine ground balls which led to a couple of Iowa runs.

Blake Parker closed the game for his 13th save, but not before allowing a home run to Angel Sanchez. Attendance was 16,280, about half of what the Cubs drew for the minor league game featuring the Peoria Chiefs last year -- possible reasons: a Sunday afternoon isn't going to draw as well as a Tuesday night; it's a lot farther to Des Moines than it is to Peoria, meaning fewer people would follow the team (although a few busloads from Iowa were dropped off on Waveland), and the heat may have kept a few people from walking up on the day of the game. Ran into BCB reader Damen Jackson today; he had a seat near the photographer's bay and hopefully, will have some pictures to post here later on.

We will no doubt see Hoffpauir returning to the Cubs after September 1, and Scales may also be brought up. Apart from that, I don't see anyone who was in today's game who looks like a "hot prospect", nor will be back in Chicago this year (with the possible exception of Justin Berg). The real Cub prospects are at the lower levels of the organization. Perhaps we'll see some of them at Wrigley in the near future.