During batting practice today, one of the Cardinals -- I didn't see who -- launched a ball onto Waveland Avenue, after which it took a bounce off the sidewalk and broke a first-floor window on the dark-brown brick building (the only one with no seats on the roof). A Cubs staff employee was soon seen in the street taking copious notes -- I'm assuming the Cubs will pay the couple of hundred dollars it will cost to replace that window.
It very well may have been Albert Pujols who hit that ball, because he sent another one onto Waveland in the first inning. He was clearly in the zone today, because Ryan Dempster pitched him carefully in the third, issuing a walk to him after Skip Schumaker stole second while Dempster struck out Ryan Ludwick. This helped result in an inning-ending double-play ball hit by Matt Holliday, keeping the score 1-0.
The score was 2-0 in the fifth when Pujols came up with two out and a runner on first base; Dempster was laboring and his pitch count was approaching 90. It's not conventional wisdom, but given what had already happened, why not walk Pujols intentionally there? Instead, he slammed a two-run homer; game essentially over, since Adam Wainwright was giving the Cubs nothing.
The final score of 9-1 Cardinals wasn't anywhere near how close the game was until the seventh inning, when Dempster finally did walk Pujols intentionally (it actually took a mound visit from Lou to accomplish this obvious move, for some reason), and then Dempster, having thrown 3,765 pitches (OK, really only 120) gave up a RBI single to Holliday.
But that wasn't the real fun -- John Grabow, after retiring the first five hitters he faced and making us think, "Hmmm, maybe he can pitch after all", gave up Pujols' third homer of the game to the basket in left-center, a single to Holliday, and a monstrous blast onto Waveland by David Freese that soared over our heads in the LF corner and nearly put a second hole into that broken window.
I hate to say this, but I was actually glad to see those home runs. Here's my mea culpa: John Grabow has been horrible. I still don't think it was a bad signing given what was known at the time, although admittedly, it was too much money. I do not believe anyone would have thought he would be this bad -- but bad he is; he's now allowed five home runs this year in 19 innings, which matches his total from all of last year, when he threw 72 innings. He has allowed 32 hits in those innings and has a 2.263 WHIP. You've got to get a guy like that out of there. There were some reported knee problems with Grabow earlier -- they must still be bothering him. Get him to the DL, since it appears Tom Gorzelanny is headed to the bullpen with Carlos Zambrano returning to the rotation on Wednesday. David Kaplan tweeted this exact scenario earlier today:
I would hope that John Grabow is placed on the DL tomorrow with an injury to make room for Andrew Cashner. Wow, does he look brutal!
Kaplan also tweeted that Lou wants three RHP and three LHP in the pen -- but that's only six relievers. He probably forgot about James Russell. Lou seems to be forgetting a lot these days. In his postgame news conference he mentioned that there will be lineup changes coming up; let's hope they include more playing time for Mike Fontenot and Tyler Colvin and perhaps also a DL stint for Aramis Ramirez, who was thrown out at the plate today in the second inning and from what I understand, did not run on contact on Starlin Castro's single. That would allow Chad Tracy to be recalled from Iowa to platoon with Jeff Baker at 3B.
This team is maddening. Yesterday they looked like world-beaters; today, after the first couple of innings, they looked like they were just waiting for the bus to the airport. They are headed on the road to play three teams they should, if they are to contend, win six of nine on the trip. That would bring them home at .500 and give them a shot at getting back in contention. We'll see.
One final note regarding the 27 home games -- one-third of the schedule -- played thus far. There have been no rainouts nor rain delays; a few sprinkles fell one day, but other than that there hasn't even been any precipitation during any Wrigley games this season, and the average game-time temperature for the 27 dates is 62 degrees, way above what we usually see this time of year. The only other years I can remember with springs this warm were 1977 and 1988 -- and both of those were extremely hot summers.
So we should expect some hot weather when the Cubs return home on June 11. Let's hope the baseball from the North Siders matches the weather.