Here's the most interesting thing that happened during today's excruciatingly boring 9-1 Cubs defeat at the hands of the Cardinals.
Matt Holliday's second-inning home run cleared the left field bleachers and came within a few feet of hitting a fire engine that was heading back to Engine Company 78 across the street from the ballpark. Then, a ballhawk racing to get the ball ran out into the street, where the fire truck had to sound its horn really loud to get him to run out of the way. The ball eventually wound up near the base of one of the rooftop clubs across the street; I never did see who got it, and no one tossed the ball back on the field (good -- this is one tradition I'd rather see end).
And that was it, really; Casey Coleman fell apart after that and allowed four more runs in a disastrous second inning and the Cubs, as has been the case most of the season, kept getting runners on base and were unable to score all but one of them this afternoon. There were only eight left on base in all, but in the sixth inning when the score was "only" 6-1, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out, giving brief hope that Alfonso Soriano might pretend the bases were empty and emulate Holliday's blast. That would have made it a game. Instead, he popped up and Welington Castillo struck out, ending the rally; the Cubs had just one hit, a Reed Johnson double, the rest of the way.
Casey Coleman is too erratic, I'm afraid, to be a major league rotation starter. He shows flashes of being a solid starter (as in his last start against the Reds) but if he doesn't have command, he either walks too many hitters (four today) or, when he finally does throw strikes, he doesn't have the velocity to throw the ball past people. That's what we saw today -- three doubles and a home run among the nine hits he allowed. Four walks (one intentional) didn't help, and he didn't strike out anyone. He'll likely have to take his next turn Tuesday in Cincinnati, but by the time the start after that comes up -- Sunday, May 22 in Boston -- perhaps Randy Wells will be ready to reclaim his rotation slot.
The Cubs had to be just about perfect today to beat Jaime Garcia, who has been one of the top starters in the NL; they weren't, and Garcia was solid; the Cubs hit him, but as noted, hardly ever with anyone on base.
In this weird 2011 weatherwise, after last night's torrential rain, the sun came out and the temperatures pushed 90 at Wrigley today with tropical level humidity. Both teams, oddly enough, took batting practice -- unusual for a day game after a night game, and especially when the night game ran past 11 p.m. The wind was blowing out, but Holliday's blast needed no help, and the Cubs took no advantage of it. Aramis Ramirez is still stuck on one home run -- he is going to miss tomorrow's game to take care of some personal business in the Dominican Republic, returning in time for Saturday's game; we don't know what that is and probably never will, but it appears to be weighing on him. He's playing with little energy and though his batting average is decent (.293) and he made one nice defensive play today, his power appears gone. Hope he brings it back from the Dominican with him.
Jeff Baker had the only really good Cub day, with three hits. Not much to talk about re: "Beef" Welington Castillo, whose season debut resulted in an 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. I still would like to see him get some regular playing time for a while. If he can play, let's find out. And if he can't, let's find that out, too.
Other notes from today: Carlos Marmol threw the ninth; that almost had to happen as he hadn't pitched since Sunday. He struck out the side on an efficient 14 pitches, which meant that Blake DeWitt, who came in to play left field (his first-ever appearance in professional baseball in the outfield), did not have to touch the ball. That was an odd little switch, almost as if Mike Quade is still playing these games like spring training games. Someone please remind him it's May 12?
It's not going to get any easier tomorrow, when the defending World Champion Giants come to town. The Giants, who are still playing at this writing and ahead of the Diamondbacks, will be riding a six-game winning streak if they hold on to their late-inning lead. Six game winning streak -- I remember those, though the Cubs haven't won that many in a row since last September.
It'll happen again. I think.