What is wrong with Cubs starting pitchers this year? I mentioned in the game preview that they have the fewest quality starts in MLB, and that number remained the same (five) after today's 7-3 Cubs loss to the Dodgers.
Granted, "quality start" isn't necessarily a great benchmark, not when you can post a 4.50 ERA while having one. But in comparison to other teams, Cubs starters have been pretty bad.
Carlos Zambrano, in his last outing before this one, appeared to be turning things around, throwing eight shutout innings at the Padres. Not so today. The first five hitters against Z all reached base and all scored, and in hindsight, the game was over after that, because the Cubs' comebacks all fell short.
Now think about that. A triple by Aaron Miles? C'mon. Then Z hit Casey Blake and gave up three more hits before settling down, but by then it was too late. The Cubs did have a shot at getting back into the game in the bottom of the first, where four of the first five Cubs reached base and two scored. With runners on second and third and one out, they even had a shot at possibly tying things up. But Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano struck out and didn't have good at-bats doing so.
It went pretty much that way the rest of the day. Aramis Ramirez ran the Cubs out of a rally in the sixth inning by overrunning second base while the play was right in front of him -- bad baserunning. The Cubs had 10 hits today, but no walks, and after the first inning advanced a baserunner only once, when they scored a consolation run in the seventh. Well, unless you count Geovany Soto going to second on defensive indifference with two out in the ninth inning.
Apart from Big Z's troubles -- and I am beginning to worry about this entire pitching staff -- the bullpen did a decent job today. John Grabow gave up a run, but only because of an error by Starlin Castro prolonging the Dodger sixth; Justin Berg, Kerry Wood and Marcos Mateo threw three innings and gave up just one hit and a pair of walks, although the game was basically just lurching to its conclusion by then.
Speaking of Mateo, can we end this experiment now? I don't care how "great an arm" he has, he simply cannot throw strikes at the major league level. Of his 20 pitches today, only 10 were strikes, and the only reason he didn't give up anything was the third inning-ending double play of the day, nicely turned by Darwin Barney and Castro. Bring Scott Maine up -- doesn't matter that he's lefthanded, at least he can throw strikes.
Easter Sunday kept many ticket buyers -- more than 8,000 fewer paid than yesterday, just 32,943 today -- and ticket holders -- maybe 18,000 in the house -- at home on a day which was originally predicted to be cloudy, but had sunshine through some high clouds. That's far better than the weather we're supposed to have for the rest of this homestand; rain and temperatures not breaking 50 are forecast for the next three days. Maybe a split tripleheader on Wednesday starting at 8 am? (Note: joke!) Attendance so far totals 411,535, an average of 34,295. Through 12 home dates in 2010, the Cubs had drawn 463,133, an average of 38,594. That's down 11%. There are multiple reasons for this: the earlier start to the season, the horrendous weather, and high ticket prices for some games that are keeping the casual fan away.
A few more wins and better weather would help bring people back to the ballpark. Matt Garza faces the Rockies' Esmil Rogers tomorrow evening at 7:05.