So let me get this straight.
Aramis Ramirez hits his first home run in over a month -- since April 15 -- and it's a game-winner, a two-run walkoff giving the Cubs a 4-2, 11-inning win over the Rockies, giving the Cubs their first "winning streak", a baby one at two games, in two weeks.
And all you want to talk about is Lou's use of John Grabow in the seventh inning?
Seriously, I think some here aren't satisfied unless they can complain. I've gone on record as saying I think Lou should be replaced/step down, and he got the dreaded GM vote of confidence yesterday, which typically means a change is a couple of weeks away or less.
Grabow had actually pitched well in his last two outings. It wasn't an unreasonable choice, although in hindsight, obviously, it looked pretty bad after he gave up a hit and two walks and was really only saved by an outstanding running catch by Marlon Byrd.
But be happy the Cubs won. Or maybe you've forgotten how.
There was actually a whole lot of good in last night's game. Ramirez's walkoff was the fifth of his career, but his first since April 18, 2009 against the Cardinals. That one was also a two-run job in the 11th inning. A-Ram also had a single and hit the ball hard in three outs sent to the outfield. He may be hitting only .175, but there are clear signs he's coming out of it.
Also good last night was Randy Wells, who had a lot of long counts, accounting for his total of 116 pitches while not quite being able to finish the seventh inning. Even at 116 pitches, there's a spot you might be able to quibble with Lou about -- Wells had gotten the first two hitters easily in the seventh. Granted, Carlos Gonzalez is a tough lefthanded hitter who already had a pair of hits off Wells, but I figured Lou might let him finish the inning.
Props, then, to Carlos Marmol, who after finishing off Grabow's bad outing by walking in the tying run, then struck out the side in the ninth. Sean Marshall gave Cubs pitchers six K's in a row by doing the same in the 10th; he had four K's overall.
Kosuke Fukudome had a pair of hits and Starlin Castro had three, including the leadoff single in the 11th that preceded by two hitters A-Ram's walkoff.
And for those of you keeping count, the Cubs registered a victory over a team with a winning record starting the night -- the Rockies were 19-18 and just finished winning three in a row over another team who had a winning record beginning that stretch (the Nationals). As I've been saying, this is a strange year, and again, apart from the league's best record (Phillies) and worst (Astros), the other 14 teams are separated by only eight games.
The other thing you can legitimately criticize Lou for is his peculiar statement last night about Carlos Zambrano:
"We're going to change Zambrano's role," Piniella said after the Cubs topped the Rockies, 4-2, in 11 innings. "We're going to start stretching him out a little bit and gain some stamina and arm strength, and we'll leave it at that."
When asked whether the switch meant Zambrano was returning to the rotation, Piniella clarified his statement.
"I didn't say 'rotation,'" Piniella said. "I said we're going to change his role in the bullpen."
Well, come on now, Lou. When was the last time you actually used a "long reliever"? Even when Lou has actually had guys who could throw long relief (Sean Marshall the last couple years, Jon Lieber before that), he never uses them that way. When Wells got pounded on May 6 in Pittsburgh, leaving after two innings -- a perfect opportunity for a "long reliever" to throw three or four innings, Lou didn't use anyone for more than two. Same in this 9-0 blowout in Cincinnati in 2008 when Lieber was yanked after two -- no one went more than two. I literally cannot remember the last time -- if ever -- that Lou used a relief pitcher for more than two innings.
You're not fooling anyone, Lou. This is obviously a prelude to getting Z back in the rotation. Z's longest relief outing is 1.2 innings, and the most pitches he's thrown in one is 35, in that disastrous appearance last Friday. Prediction: Zambrano is back in the rotation by the end of the month; as I have written before, I was in favor of this move when it was first made, but it clearly did not work and it is time to put Z back in the rotation.
Finally, last night's announced paid crowd of 35,760 was the smallest of the season and maybe half that number were in the park. The bleachers were less than half full. For anyone who wants to make the "late 2006 empty seat" comparison -- not valid. Last night was a chilly, windy night, with a lot of the area seeing rain most of the day and rain in the forecast (though not a drop fell); with the team having not played well, the size of last night's gathering is no surprise. If this keeps up, or if it's happening in September -- then the Cubs have something to worry about. For a Monday night in mid-May? Not so much.
And be happy, will you? The Cubs have won two in a row and are starting to look better.