MILWAUKEE -- Besides the home run allowed by Kerry Wood to Casey McGehee with a runner on base in the eighth inning that gave the Brewers a 6-5 win over the Cubs, there are two other events during Sunday's game that are worth revisiting:
- The failure of Aramis Ramirez to turn what looked like a routine double play in the first inning; had he done that, the inning would have ended on Ryan Braun's popup. Instead, Prince Fielder tied the game with a two-run homer, and
- Marlon Byrd's attempted stolen base in the ninth inning with nobody out.
I dunno. I go back and forth on the stolen base attempt. The Cubs haven't gone this far into a season since 1964 without a stolen base. This team is reminding me of the late 1960s Cubs who had almost no speed -- the 1969 Cubs had only 30 steals (and 32 caught stealing) and went station to station virtually all the time. This year's team really has no stolen base threats; Starlin Castro has some speed but he's not really a base stealer, and there's no one else who qualifies as a base stealer at all.
This isn't a problem if you have tons of baserunners and can hit home runs. And for a while today, that was working; the Cubs had 11 hits and drew six walks and had plenty of opportunities to score more runs, especially in the first inning when they could have had Yovani Gallardo out of the game with a couple more hits after A-Ram's double.
Instead, they turned rallies into double plays and I suppose Byrd was just trying to "make something happen". Byrd doesn't have great speed, but it still took a perfect throw to get him. It didn't help when Ramirez came up twice after his three doubles with chances to drive in more runs and failed.
Even so, up to that eighth inning, it was still going reasonably according to plan. The Cubs had chances to score even more runs than they did in the seventh, with the bases loaded and only one out. Tyler Colvin's little grounder held up long enough so that Fielder couldn't try for a double play; that scored the lead run. And Marcos Mateo -- yes, even Mateo -- and Sean Marshall held the Brewers down until Wood came in for the eighth.
It's another tough call, but with first base open, I'd have pitched more carefully to McGehee. Not that facing Rickie Weeks would necessarily be any easier, but you just can't let McGehee beat you in that situation; better to walk him than to let him do what he did.
It was a warm and sultry June-like day at Miller Park; they opened the roof but not all the way, so that the entire infield was in shadow and there wasn't an advantage to pitcher over batter for either team. The crowd of 37,193 seemed about the usual one-third to 40% Cubs fans -- but chants of "Let's Go Brewers!" were extremely loud in the ninth inning. It's about the most energized I've seen a crowd of Brewers fans at a Cubs/Brewers game. The Brewers fans likely know that Prince Fielder is gone after this season and that this may be their best shot at a playoff spot for a while.
For the Cubs, all they can do is regroup. Casey Coleman didn't do a great job, but he wasn't awful, either. In addition to pitching credibly (and Mike Quade could have left him in for another inning, he had thrown only 81 pitches), he laid down a perfect sacrifice and also doubled. They did sign a scrap-heap pitcher, Ramon Ortiz, today and sent him to Iowa. Ortiz has been around so long, he was drafted and signed by the Angels when they were still the California Angels. He was pretty good for their World Series team in 2002, but hasn't been very good since then. It's a no-risk signing, but I don't think I'd want him around a major league rotation any time soon. Plus, the Cubs may need another outfielder if Kosuke Fukudome has to go on the DL with what is being termed a "mild" hamstring strain after the second of two nice diving catches he made today.
Bizarre fact that means nothing, but is still worth mentioning: the Cubs have lost all four games televised on WGN this year. 0-4. They're 4-1 on CSN. Just sayin'.
It's off for the team to Houston and let's hope the Cubs can win a series there.