All throughout this wet, misty and cold spring, we heard this mantra from Cubs players and coaches: "Just wait until it warms up -- we'll get our bats going then!"
Monday dawned warm and somewhat sticky with the wind blowing out strongly toward center field at Wrigley Field. And just as predicted, bats heated up... the Houston Astros' bats. Did the teams switch uniforms under those awful ice-cream man caps (I kept getting cravings for a Cold Stone Creamery cone) they were forced to wear today? The Astros had one of the league's worst offenses and pitching staffs; instead, their bullpen shut the Cubs down for five innings, giving up just one run, while their hitters scored nine (virtually) unanswered runs and defeated the Cubs 12-7.
Let's count up the horrific numbers. The Astros scored a season-high 12 runs, breaking their previous season high by one. Guess who that 11-run outburst was against? That's right, the Cubs on April 12 in Houston. They hit four home runs, a season high and before today's game, they had only 29 home runs for the entire season. The Cubs, with one homer from Carlos Pena, have now been outhomered 29-16 at Wrigley Field.
And worst of all, the Astros scored more runs today (12) than they scored in their entire weekend series, where they were swept by the Diamondbacks (11).
Rodrigo Lopez did all right for a while, throwing four decent innings while the Cubs fashioned a 6-3 lead with Pena's home run and some triples (Darwin Barney and Blake DeWitt), along with four stolen bases from Tony Campana. Campana's five steals now is tied for the team lead with Starlin Castro (who also had one today) -- and Campana has played in only 11 games.
DeWitt was in the game in left field because Alfonso Soriano pulled up with a sore quad after grounding to third to end the first inning. He's undergone an MRI; there are no results available until tomorrow, but it's likely he's headed to the DL. Now, Brad Snyder was just called up. Why is DeWitt in the outfield? Again, Mike Quade: this isn't extended spring training! You've got a spare outfielder on the team and a situation that calls for him -- USE HIM! If the Cubs are going to call up half the Iowa squad because of injuries -- GIVE THEM PLAYING TIME! Otherwise you're playing with a 22 or 23 man roster; also, this appears to be repeating the Lou Piniella "got to give the vets their playing time" thing that I and others criticized for the last couple of years.
DeWitt did make a nice throw to nail Carlos Lee at the plate in the seventh inning that kept the score only 8-6 Houston. But on the very next play, a single to left from Chris Johnson, he slipped and kicked the ball off the pads on the left field side wall. That allowed another run to score.
Seriously, Blake DeWitt should not be playing the outfield. Ever. And if Soriano does go on the DL, bring up Brett Jackson and let him play. At this point, it appears the season is headed quickly down the drain -- might as well get your best prospect here and get him some real playing time, instead of playing Snyder, a 29-year-old AAAA player. I'm not sure if Jackson is 100% yet and ready to play, but it is pointless to waste major league time on DeWitt or Snyder in left field on a full-time basis.
DJ LeMahieu made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and hit into a double play. Playing time for LeMahieu is a little bit more problematic; who are you going to bench, Castro or Darwin Barney? At times, I wonder about this managerial and coaching staff, which collectively has little experience; the most experienced coach on the staff is Lester Strode, the bullpen coach. That isn't good. Mike Quade should probably have hired a former major league manager as bench coach; Pat Listach doesn't have that experience, which would have been invaluable at the major league level to a rookie manager.
What more can you say? Scott Maine is proving that he doesn't belong at this level, either; he took a three-run deficit and let Jeff Keppinger blast it to a six-run hole with a three-run homer. It might have been more, except Barney, Pena and Castro turned over a slick double play to end the top of the ninth.
There were 30,450 tickets sold to today's game, and there didn't appear to be many (if any) no-shows from that total. That's a real warning sign on a beautiful day -- to go more than 10,000 under capacity. If the losing keeps up, this is going to become a flood.
There is one more thing I need to mention here before ending this recap. The behavior in the game threads today was unacceptable. I don't care who started it or who is "to blame". Every single poster here deserves respect from others. We are all frustrated with the play of this team. That does not give you the right to call names, use profanity toward others, or personally attack anyone. No names are being named here, nor is anyone being called out specifically. This goes for every single person on this site, each and every one of you, myself included, and I haven't always lived up to that myself.
So take a deep breath, please, and if you disagree with someone, keep it civil. Remember this from the community guidelines:
When posting at this blog, please follow this one simple rule: Before hitting "post" to post your remarks, ask yourself: "Would I be embarrassed to say this in front of strangers who were physically present in the room with me and could respond to my face?" If the answer is "yes," then don't post.
Simple, really, and if you cannot follow this simple guideline, there will be consequences.
Finally, nice to see BCB'er SackMan, who sat with us in the LF bleachers today. It was a beautiful day. Wish it had been a better game. Maybe tomorrow.