Recently, umpire Joe West complained about the length of Red Sox/Yankees games. He was roundly criticized for that, but he does have a point. If you're a fan of the team that wins games that push four hours, you don't mind so much; but that was not the case today for Cubs fans at Wrigley Field.
Cubs fans had no pleasure: first, a three hour, twenty-eight minute slog through some really bad baseball, and a loss, 8-6 to the Brewers, a game that featured 24 hits, nine walks, and three Cub errors that resulted in two unearned Milwaukee runs. The Brewers had hits in every inning and scored in seven of nine; it finally ended a few minutes short of 5 pm Chicago time, about ten feet short of being tied, when Jim Edmonds ran down Aramis Ramirez's fly ball to right center field on the warning track, just short of the wall.
Cripes. There's so much bad to sift through recapping this mess, so let's start with the only good thing: it was summerlike today, 78 degrees at game time, topping out at 84. That's early July heat, and the wind was howling out, first toward center field, then shifting to the west, more to right field by the time the game ended, although not enough to make A-Ram's drive even make the basket. So the weather was nice; that's about all the good we got out of this afternoon.
Carlos Zambrano had run through 96 pitches by the end of the fourth inning and threw an outrageous 121 in five. He "lowered" his ERA to 9.45 by allowing three earned runs -- the fourth was a result of his own error, when he tried to pick Jim Edmonds off first (why would you bother doing this with two out?) and Edmonds wound up scoring on a Prince Fielder single. I don't know what's up with Z, but that makes two mediocre-to-bad starts out of three, while the rest of the rotation has done a very good job. If Z was having cramps and needed fluids, as reported by Carrie, then maybe he isn't in as good shape as he says he is.
The pen was no help today, either; all three relievers gave up runs, although you can't really blame John Grabow for his unearned tally in the ninth. Grabow faced seven hitters and not one of them hit the ball out of the infield. Ryan Theriot couldn't handle a ball. Grabow couldn't handle a bunt -- maybe we need Greg Maddux back to teach fielding to our major league pitchers. There was a comebacker for one out, a nicely done throw-out at the plate for another, and another infield hit.
I also think that the time has come to answer the question, "What is Jeff Samardzija doing on this team?" He issued a pair of walks and gave up a monstrously long home run to Ryan Braun, which leaves his season ERA at 19.29 after three appearances. Since that 12th pitcher barely gets used, why not bring a position player back? Or just about anyone on the Iowa staff?
The offense actually did a pretty decent job of keeping things going today -- any team that puts together four walks, ten hits and six runs should win just about every game where that happens. Marlon Byrd had a nice offensive day with a homer and a hustle double (I can see how he hit 43 doubles last year playing like that; he's a very aggressive baserunner). I like the way Byrd plays the game and he'll be an asset to this team. Tyler Colvin had a pair of hits and deserves more playing time. Alfonso Soriano pinch-hit -- he was greeted with mostly cheers, just a few mixed boos -- and drew a walk, which was actually one of his better AB of the year so far.
Triple-A replacement umpire Angel Campos had a very strange strike zone today; Lou said in his postgame remarks that "he was probably hearing it from both dugouts most of the day" and that may be why he ejected the normally mild-mannered Derrek Lee after he called D-Lee out on strikes in the 7th. It wasn't that pitch that Lee was upset about; it was the called strike two that preceded it. You almost never see Lee that upset; the only other time I can remember him being tossed was during that fight he had with Chris Young of the Padres back on June 16, 2007. It was a memorable day for Derrek; earlier, he had launched his 100th career HR at Wrigley Field into the shrubbery in center field.
Well, sometimes you're going to have games like this. The Cubs did win the series and if they can keep doing that on a consistent basis, good things will happen. The Astros, who finally won their first game of the year today, 5-1 over the Cardinals (and thank heavens for that -- you don't want a team coming in 0-9 and have you be their first victim), will be here for the weekend. It's a good time to win another series.