Recently, on a SABR discussion list to which I subscribe, there was talk of what one of the posters called the "Ultimate Grand Slam".
This describes a grand slam hit on a 3-2 count, with two out in the bottom of the ninth and the hitter's team trailing by three runs.
Last night's wasn't quite that -- the count was 2-2 and there was only one out in the inning -- but it's close enough. Pretty much everything else has happened in this house of horrors Cubs season, so why not give up a walkoff grand slam? And a pinch-hit GS as well -- the first pinch-hit grand slam of 2011 by anyone, and only the second home run of Brian Bogusevic's brief major league career.
It was the second walkoff slam, down three runs, this year -- Travis Hafner of the Indians hit one on July 7 against Toronto. It's the 26th such home run in MLB history. You'll note there is actually one Cub on that list, Ellis Burton, who did it on August 31, 1963. Oddly enough, it was also against Houston, and the final score was 6-5, just as it was in Tuesday night's loss to the Astros.
Had enough? I think we've all had enough of the 2011 season. Yet, it has 39 games to go.
Before that ninth inning, the Cubs had played another solid game. Ryan Dempster threw seven good innings. Kerry Wood was lights-out for the second straight day setting things up in the eighth inning for what you'd think would have been an easy save for Carlos Marmol. Tyler Colvin hit a two-run homer.
And then Marmol came into the game. Now, some of you will probably try to blame this loss on Jim Hendry, but Marmol -- who had posted eight saves, had a 1.04 ERA, 0.692 WHIP and 12 strikeouts in 8.2 innings this month -- looked like he was back on his game.
Until last night, that is. After retiring the first hitter in the ninth easily, Marmol lost it. In situations like that, a major league manager has to at the very least consider replacing the closer, as he would replace any other pitcher in any other inning who is struggling. Why wasn't Sean Marshall warming up after Marmol had struggled in throwing 18 pitches to the first three hitters? Then he threw another eight to Matt Downs and walked him. That would have been the perfect situation to bring in Marshall to throw to the lefthanded Bogusevic.
The Cubs have to decide what they're in the business of doing in situations like this: giving their closer "confidence", or winning baseball games. Just because a pitcher is a "closer" does not mean that you leave him in when he clearly doesn't have it. Sometimes, if you want to win, you've got to think outside the proverbial box.
Mike Quade didn't do that Tuesday night and so the Cubs join the list of 25 other teams -- since 1881! -- to give up walkoff grand slams, leading by three runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Someday, maybe we'll look back at the 2011 season and laugh. Not yet, though. There's another game this afternoon; the game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.