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Offense Disappears Entirely In 4-0 Cubs Loss To Mets

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So let me get this straight.

The Cubs' offense vanished almost completely last night, producing only a single from Koyie Hill, a single by Mike Fontenot, an Alfonso Soriano double and a handful of walks, scoring no runs in a 4-0 shutout loss to the Mets, which was, believe it or not, the first shutout loss of the 2010 season.

And the response to this is to take a look at Braden Looper? The same Braden Looper who led the National League in earned runs allowed, in home runs allowed, and had the second-highest ERA of all NL qualifiers in 2009? And who won 14 games only because he had the second-highest run support of any NL starting pitcher last year?

Awful, awful idea. The only usefulness Looper might have is with his bat -- he's a .215 lifetime hitter who hit .254/.299/.333 in 2008 in 80 plate appearances with three doubles and a triple and a .632 OPS, which at this moment is 70 points higher than Aramis Ramirez's.

It would have been a really good idea to give A-Ram, who is clearly pressing, yesterday off and to give Chad Tracy a start -- Tracy has now spent 14 games without a single start, the only position player on the team who hasn't had one. No hitter can stay sharp getting two at-bats a week, but that's what Lou has given Tracy. And now, with lefthanders going tonight and tomorrow, you wouldn't give Tracy a start against them, either.

Lou Piniella's idea of shaking things up appears to be switching around his leadoff hitter, which produced three hits from Marlon Byrd on Monday and nothing from Kosuke Fukudome last night (save one walk).

Carlos Zambrano's solid six innings were wasted. Z lowered his ERA by more than two runs by allowing only a pair of tallies in those six innings -- and even that might have been avoided if he would have just thrown strikes to Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey, who came into this season with a lifetime batting average of .085. That's the second time in the last week that a Cub pitcher has gotten himself into trouble by walking his opponent.

With two out, how can you not throw strikes to a hitter this bad? Obviously, Z then got angry with himself for walking Pelfrey and served up a meatball that Jose Reyes smashed into the gap in left-center for the only two runs the Mets would need. Adding the usual insult, Fernando Tatis later slammed a two-run, pinch-hit homer off John Grabow to put the game away in the eighth. Grabow's ERA now stands at 9.53 and his 2.29 WHIP is... well, apparently enough for the Cubs to look at Braden Looper, which is frightening.

This may sound clichéd, but no team is as bad as it looks during a losing streak. The Cubs are better than this, and they have to take advantage of solid starting pitching. They have nine quality starts in 14 games and if you throw out Z's awful outing on Opening Day, have generally been good in every game since then. Obviously, scoring zero runs is going to win you zero games, but every time a starter goes out there and gives you six or seven solid innings, you simply have to win those games.

And Braden Looper isn't the answer.

Finally, the last two days I've had a chance to listen to a bit of each game on WGN radio. Keith Moreland, subbing for Ron Santo in this series, does an excellent job -- I had not heard him before. When Santo retires, Moreland would be a worthy successor. In the meantime -- can he still hit?