GLENDALE, Arizona -- I wasn't going to go to this game originally, because of the parking issues at Camelback Ranch, but a kind BCBer offered me a front-row seat near the Cubs dugout. That was too good an offer to pass up. If you haven't seen them already, check out some of the photos I posted via TwitPic from the game.
The "same old story" is the lack of offense. Today's pitching was actually quite good, and if Ivan DeJesus hadn't sent Tyler Colvin into a sure out at the plate with one out in the first inning, the Cubs might have had Chad Billingsley on the ropes early. There was no chance Colvin was going to score from second on Marlon Byrd's single -- he was out by ten feet. Instead, Billingsley settled down and gave the Cubs only a pair of singles and a few walks. They managed to load the bases against him in the sixth inning with two out, but Jeff Baker flied to center.
Meanwhile, Ryan Dempster scattered six hits over six innings, striking out six and giving up only one run, on three singles in the fifth. John Grabow and Sean Marshall threw scoreless innings, and then Jeff Baker tied the game in the top of the ninth with a long home run that completely cleared the left field berm and scattered people sitting at barstool-height tables behind the Dodger bullpen.
Samardzija was left in to throw a second inning of relief and got a bit wild. He gave up a long double, then issued a walk and, after Darwin Barney prevented a run (for the moment) by keeping a ball in the infield for a single, ran the count to 3-0 before striking out Gabe Kapler. Then Orlando Mercado -- the son of a former major league catcher by the same name -- ended it with a pop fly that Fernando Perez couldn't handle.
It was father-son day everywhere. In addition to Mercado, the same-named son of the Cubs coach, Ivan DeJesus Jr., played shortstop for the Dodgers. James Baldwin, a Dodger prospect whose father (also with the same name) once pitched for the White Sox as well as the Dodgers, pinch-ran. Completing old-home-week, but not a son of a major leaguer, ex-Cub Aaron Miles pinch-hit (and flied to center). Sitting near home plate, I can tell you that Miles is even shorter than you thought he was when he was with the Cubs.
Most likely, what you all want to talk about is the big meeting between Mike Quade, his coaches, and Jim Hendry and Randy Bush this morning. As you can see by one of the TwitPics I sent, Quade had a long discussion in the dugout with some of the Chicago beat writers -- it lasted a good 20-25 minutes, and during some of it, the reporters weren't even taking notes or recording, and laughter was happening on all sides of the talk. Can you imagine Lou Piniella having a session like that? Anyway, the biggest thing that occurred as a result of that meeting was the switch in starting pitchers tomorrow in Mesa. Carlos Silva will start, moving Carlos Zambrano -- who was originally scheduled -- to throw at Fitch Park in a minor league game. The brass apparently wants Silva to still have a shot at the rotation -- this, to me, seems a really bad idea. Andrew Cashner has outpitched Silva. According to one tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer, even Braden Looper is still "in the mix" for fifth starter, despite his horrendous outing on Saturday in Peoria.
It's OK if they wait a little while longer. I imagine there are players they still want to give a fair shot to. But eventually, they are going to have to make some tough decisions and maybe eat some money, to put the best players on the field.
A couple of other things I noticed while sitting closer than I usually do, on an outstandingly clear day in the Valley (all the haze that had settled over the last week or so was gone; the mountains were completely visible all the way across the Valley from highways 101 and I-10, something that's pretty rare):
- Mike Quade was engaged with discussions with Mark Riggins and Pat Listach throughout the game, in addition to calling over Kosuke Fukudome and Tyler Colvin for some talks while they were in the on-deck circle. Fukudome clearly understands more English than you might guess. He and Quade even shared a laugh when a foul ball nearly hit Fukudome.
- Today's home plate umpire, a minor leaguer named Stephen Barga, appeared to be squeezing both sides. A wag in the stands yelled out, "Make sure you have your reservations for Chattanooga!"
- As noted above, it was easy to see the play on Colvin in the first inning setting up; there was no way I'd have sent him, with one out in the first inning of a scoreless game.
- Wide swaths of empty seats reigned today; attendance was only 7,951, more than 5,000 fewer than the last time I was at Camelback Ranch last year. The Diamondbacks drew another near-sellout today of 11,794, but a couple of other games (Padres/Brewers at Maryvale, 5,003 and Athletics/Reds at Goodyear, 3,540) did not draw well this afternoon.
As noted, tomorrow Carlos Silva gets another shot at starting. If he throws poorly, I'd say the Cubs just have to bite the bullet and eat the salary. If he throws well -- then what? I'm not sure. Gio Gonzalez, who threw six strong innings vs. the Cubs last Thursday at Phoenix Muni, gets the start for the Athletics. Tomorrow's game is not televised, but after that, four games in a row are on TV, Thursday through Sunday.