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Four-Run Eighth Dooms Cubs To 9-5 Loss To Rockies

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Write your own caption. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Write your own caption. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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In defense of Marcos Mateo, he got jobbed on a couple of calls from plate umpire Bob Davidson, who really ought to retire already.

Not in defense of Marcos Mateo, he couldn't slam the door on the Rockies after getting a couple of key strikeouts with men on base and the Rockies beat the Cubs 9-5, winning a closely-fought series. The Cubs have still not been more than one game over or one game under .500 all season. And, the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers all lost today -- and at this writing the Brewers still have a shot at getting swept by the Nationals. No one is dominating the NL Central, and the Cubs played the best team (to date) in the National League pretty tough.

I can't say enough good things about Starlin Castro, even though he strayed a bit too far off first base in the ninth inning and got doubled off when Darwin Barney hit a rocket that was snagged by Troy Tulowitzki. Castro had three more hits today; he's now hitting .418 and today was his sixth game (out of 15) with at least three hits. Since moving into the leadoff spot he's hitting .563 there (18-for-32). There really aren't enough superlatives for someone who's doing this at age 21. Keep up the good work, Starlin. Darwin Barney had a pair of hits to raise his average to .333 and the Tribune's Paul Sullivan asked tweeters to come up with a name for this 1-2 punch. "Starwin" seemed to be the popular choice... I dunno. My suggestion was "The Purple Revolutionist".

This game was lost because the Cubs still don't really have any good bullpen options beyond Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall, although it was pretty encouraging to see Jeff Samardzija have two solid innings today, his second straight good outing. If he can keep that up, he could solidify the middle innings. It would have helped, too, if Ryan Dempster could have thrown more than five innings -- this time, Mike Quade did the right thing by pulling him after five and 104 pitches. But if you're going to do that, you need bullpen people who can slam the door. Marcos Mateo isn't that guy. Maybe Jeff Stevens is; he couldn't have done much worse than Mateo did today. (It would have also helped if the Cubs had hit better than 3-for-14 with RISP.)

I'm also glad to see the Cubs leave Denver because after a snappily-played first game of the series, games two and three slogged on forever. Saturday night took 3:22 and this afternoon was 3:42; 23 hits and 10 total walks will do that to a game. Cubs pitchers combined to throw 184 pitches and Rockies hurlers threw 176, and with Rafael Betancourt in the game throwing one of the innings, that seemed to take about 30 minutes right there.

Tomorrow, the Cubs come home into a miserable weather forecast (moderate to heavy rain and temperatures in the 40s) to face the Padres with Carlos Zambrano expected to go. The "College of Pitchers" will go on Tuesday -- and if Randy Wells gets a favorable diagnosis tomorrow when he's examined in Chicago, maybe that'll be the last time we'll see that. The rotation after Tuesday should go:

Wednesday 4/20: Matt Garza
Friday 4/22: Casey Coleman
Saturday 4/23: Ryan Dempster
Sunday 4/24: Carlos Zambrano
Monday 4/25: Matt Garza

... and that would leave the next College of Pitchers start on Tuesday, April 26 against the Rockies; maybe Wells, who is eligible to come off the DL on April 21, can make that start. If you're heading to the ballpark tomorrow, dress warm and take plenty of rain gear. This has been one of the worst weather Aprils in Chicago that I can remember.