When a team has a situation like the Cubs faced Thursday night -- a night game in one city, a day game in another city the next day -- they usually send the next game's starting pitcher ahead, so that he can get proper rest before his start.
Thus Matt Garza likely spent Thursday in Chicago, getting ready for Friday afternoon's matchup with the Astros at Wrigley Field.
What the Cubs didn't tell us is that they were going to send the offense along to Chicago a day early as well.
Wait, what? ... is what you're probably saying. The Cubs fielded a team in St. Louis Thursday night. Sure, but they all apparently forgot how to hit, all except Welington Castillo, who must have been upset that I dissed his hitting in the recap to Wednesday's game. Castillo had three hits, including his second home run of the season (the second time he's hit his second home run; the first time, nearly a month ago, got washed out along with the May 28 game at the Cell). That's all good.
What isn't good is that the entire rest of the team produced two singles, one by Anthony Rizzo and one by Darwin Barney. That puts too much pressure on the pitching staff; Scott Feldman held the game close until the sixth inning, when the Cardinals broke through for four runs and a 6-1 win over the Cubs. St. Louis took three of four games in the series, which shouldn't surprise any of you; the Cubs went 3-4 on the road trip. You know, that wouldn't be too bad if the Cubs could actually win some of their games at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are 14-21 on the road, which isn't that much different than the road records of two first-place teams, the Braves (18-20 on the road) and Tigers (16-19 on the road).
But the Cubs' 15-21 home record is fourth-worst in the major leagues; only the Mets, Marlins and Astros are worse in their home parks. If you're going to be quick to blame the day games, remember that the 2008 Cubs were 55-26 at home (best home record by a Cubs team since the 1930s), playing essentially the same day/night split the Cubs are playing now. It's not the schedule, it's the players.
Also of interest from Thursday night's loss: the performance of two pitchers. Hector Rondon came into the game with two runners on and one out in the sixth and the score still a somewhat-manageable 3-1 in favor of the Cardinals. Rondon got the second out, but then allowed two hits that put the game out of reach.
I like Rondon; he has a good arm and at some point, might still become a decent major-league relief pitcher. But it's got to be time soon for him to come down with Rule 5 Disease so the Cubs can put him on the DL and give him a breather and later some time in Triple-A.
And Carlos Marmol, in his first appearance since Sunday's meltdown (and against a much better team), threw an efficient scoreless inning on just 11 pitches. He threw nine strikes and allowed just a harmless single. This shows... well, I'm honestly not sure. Is pitching in a save situation that much different from pitching when you're five runs down? Apparently, for Marmol, it is. Thus, if he is to be kept on the roster (and I'm still in favor of dumping him), he must pitch only in extremely low-leverage situations like this one.
Finally, Starlin Castro. Oh, Starlin Castro. I feel sorry for him. His confidence must be completely shot. He went 0-for-4, striking out twice, and had really bad at-bats. Will Dale Sveum finally, at last, give him a breather? Tune in later today for the answer; the game preview for Friday afternoon's contest against the Astros will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.