The Cubs are celebrating the decade of the 1970s this homestand and as part of that "celebration," the team decided to show everyone who's not old enough to remember that decade what Cubs baseball was like, 40-plus years ago.
Wait. No, no they didn't "decide" to do that, but they managed to do it anyway in a brutal 13-3 loss to the Padres which was reminiscent of many mid-1970s blowouts, at least to this Cubs fan who sat through many of them.
Interestingly enough, exactly 38 years ago Thursday the Cubs nearly duplicated last night's score in a 12-3 loss to the Cardinals, who just happen to be the team's next opponent. That 1976 game was in St. Louis, but some of the pitching performances Thursday night were eerily reminiscent of the bad pitching staff of the mid-1970s. I hadn't really thought about it until I looked at that boxscore, but Edwin Jackson is kind of like Bill Bonham, who started that game. Lots of talent, good stuff, no idea where it's going.
Actually, Jackson didn't pitch too badly Thursday night after a rough first inning in which he gave up two runs. He then retired 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced until Rene Rivera's home run leading off the fifth. After the first two batters reached in the sixth on a walk and a single, Jackson left with hand cramping, something he says won't make him miss a start. (I'll let you decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.)
Brian Schlitter then came into the game and... well, perhaps the carnage is best left to the boxscore link above. Go back to the 1976 boxscore and look at who relieved Bonham: Oscar Zamora. Zamora, like Schlitter, didn't retire a batter in that game and got charged with run. Zamora had a decent year for the Cubs in 1974 (after nine years in the minors) but was pretty awful in 1975 and 1976. For Schlitter, who also had a long and strange trek through the minor leagues, we have somewhat higher hopes, but he was awful Thursday night in an inning in which 15 Padres batted and nine runs scored.
Before that the game had been reasonably close at 3-1, but once again, the Cubs failed to take advantage of a good scoring opportunity. They had scored one run and had two runners on with one out in the fourth, but Ryan Sweeney hit a soft line drive right at shortstop Alexi Amarista and John Baker struck out.
After the sixth it was time to wonder whether Rick Renteria might let a position player finish on the mound, but with eight relievers in his bullpen, that wasn't really necessary. The offensively-challenged Padres posted season highs in hits and runs, both of which were season highs in hits and runs against the Cubs, and their pitchers struck out 16 Cubs, one short of the season high. That's about the only thing different from the 1976 game, in which the Cubs struck out only three times and had 10 hits, all singles. That kind of hitting in the 1970s got Cubs' hitters labeled as the "Rush Street Offense" (lots of singles, no action, and you'll forgive the somewhat sexist joke, also a remnant of the 1970s).
That's about all you could do about a game like this. Laugh. This team isn't that bad. Or at least we hope it's not. Starlin Castro broke out of a mini-slump with a pair of hits and Arismendy Alcantara also had two singles, but that was about it for Cubs highlights on yet another night where October-level chill filled the air and there was a mass exodus from the stands after Eddie Vedder led the seventh-inning stretch.
The game ran exactly as long as Wednesday night's walk-fest: three hours, 36 minutes. At least there was some hitting action Thursday. The game was interesting and didn't drag, unlike the walkathon. And therein lies the real difference between 1976 and 2014. In 1976, not one nine-inning Cubs game lasted as long as those two -- the longest nine-inning game that year ran 3:17.
Well, enough. Just thinking about pitchers like Zamora, Paul Reuschel, Mike Garman and Joe Coleman (Casey Coleman's father), who all appeared in that July 24, 1976 game, brings back bad memories of Cubs pitchers hurling baseballs in that era that wound up on Waveland Avenue. We will hope for better when the Cubs take on the Cardinals beginning Friday afternoon. Travis Wood pitches against Joe Kelly in a game that begins at 3:05 CT.