Welcome back to our review of the 2003 season. When last we checked in on the Cubs, they had just taken two out of three in a brief three game trip to Pittsburgh. They return home at 12-7, having won seven of nine and owning a two-game lead in the National League Central. Conversely, the Padres came in at 7-12. The Giants had jumped out to a 15-3 start and so the Padres were already 8½ games out of first and threatening to be completely out of contention before the end of April. This certainly looked like an opportunity for the Cubs to pad their division lead.
Game 20, April 22: Cubs 7 - Padres 2
Carlos Zambrano was signed by the Cubs as an International Free Agent in 1997, the same year he turned 16. By 2001, at just 20 years of age, Carlos was making his debut for the Cubs. 2003 was his first full year as a Cub. Zambrano would go on to make 302 starts over a 12-year career, with 282 of those starts being for the Cubs. The controversial right hander would make three All-Star teams, finish in the top five of the Cy Young voting three times, receive MVP votes in 2004, and win four Silver Slugger awards. Carlos will always be best remembered for his mercurial temper and his fantastic hitting. Carlos was over shadowed at times by the much heralded Mark Prior and by legendary Cub Kerry Wood, but when he was on his game, Zambrano was every bit as dominant as the other two. Though two of the three were very young, the Cubs had a formidable trio at the top of their 2003 rotation. As someone who had been following the Cubs for almost 20 years, I was so moved by the trio that I proclaimed early in 2003 that this trio would never be beaten in three straight games. If only I’d been right...
Three Heroes/Three Goats:
- Superhero: Damian Miller (.279). Miller had one hit and one walk in four plate appearances. But the one hit was a two-out, base clearing, bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning. Miller also scored a run.
- Hero: Carlos Zambrano (.131). Carlos threw six innings and allowed six hits, three walks and two runs while striking out four.
- Sidekick: Mark Bellhorn (.066). Mark was walked and hit by a pitch in four plate appearances. He scored one run.
- Billy Goat: Moises Alou (-.072). Moises had just one walk in four plate appearances.
- Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.027). Mark had just one hit in five at bats. He did drive in a run with a ground out.
- Kid: Lenny Harris (-.006). Harris was retired in his only at bat off of the bench.
Game 21, April 23: Cubs 0 - Padres 2
Moises Alou played his age 36 season for the Cubs in 2003. It was his second full season as a Cub after signing as a free agent in 2002. Moises would slug 22 homers and drive in 91 runs. He delivered a line of .285/.357/.462. He played in 151 games and had 638 plate appearances. bWAR had him at 1.1 for the season (actually up from 0.2 in 2002 for the Cubs). He’d have a much better season the following year when he’d make an All-Star team and generate 4.0 bWAR. He’d finish 14th in the MVP voting for those efforts. My lingering memory of Moises Alou as a Cub will always be the way he melted down in Game 6 of the NLCS. In a moment that screamed for leadership, Alou let the moment get under his skin.
Three Heroes/Three Goats:
- Superhero: Corey Patterson (.123). Corey had a double and a walk in four plate appearances.
- Hero: Kerry Wood (.092). Wood actually through a superb game, but was foiled by the team’s lack of offense. He logged seven innings of five hit, three walk, two run baseball and struck out 11. That line will get it done many more times than not.
- Sidekick: Sammy Sosa (.053). Sammy had two doubles in four at bats.
- Billy Goat: Mark Bellhorn (-.202). Bellhorn was hitless in three at bats, all strike outs.
- Goat: Moises Alou (-.172). Moises was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
- Sidekick: Damian Miller (-.165). Miller matched Bellhorn’s line exactly. The Cubs struck out 15 times while drawing only two walks.
Game 22, April 24: Cubs 1 - Padres 2
Tom Goodwin was selected originally by the Pirates in the sixth round of the 1986 draft. After he didn’t sign, he was then selected 22nd overall by the Dodgers in the ‘89 draft. In ‘91, at the age of 22 he made his debut for the Dodgers. Tom would have a largely unremarkable career, but did play in parts of 14 seasons, appear in 1,288 games and have 4,315 plate appearances. He played for six different teams including two stints with the Dodgers. He actually finished ninth in rookie of the year voting in 95 when he finally played his first full major league season. He was 34 when he signed with the Cubs as a free agent in 2003. He would sign a second one-year deal after the 2003 season and then retire after the 2004 season. I will always remember Tom because he happened to walk into the same Rockies bar in Colorado that I did following a game while he was still playing for the Cubs.
Three Heroes/Three Goats:
- Superhero: Matt Clement (.082). Matt made it three strong starting performances in three days for the Cubs. He threw seven innings of six hit, one walk, two run baseball. But once again, the bats went silent.
- Hero: Tom Goodwin (.079). Goodwin had two singles, a stolen base, two strike outs and scored the Cubs only run in four at bats.
- Sidekick: Juan Cruz (.073). Cruz retired four batters out of the five he faced, with the only man to reach base coming on an error. Cruz struck out two.
- Billy Goat: Moises Alou (-.191). Moises was hitless in four at bats with one strike out.
- Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.189). Mark was hitless in four at bats as well. He did drive in the Cubs lone run on a RBI ground out in the eighth inning.
- Kid: Sammy Sosa (-.107). Sammy had one hit, one strike out and grounded into a double play in four at bats.
So the Cubs dropped two out of three to the lowly Padres. This despite three very strong starting performances. Cubs starters threw 20 innings allowing 17 hits, seven walks and allowing six runs (2.70 ERA) in the series. They struck out 19. Despite the small stumble, the Cubs actually left town with a 2½-game lead, managing to extend their division lead. That would be a comforting cushion heading into a six game trip to end the month of April and start the month of May. That trip would go through always challenging Colorado and to face the red hot Giants who would boast of an 18-7 record before facing the Cubs.
We’ll take a look at those two series in our next installment of this series, later in the week. We’ll also introduce Mike Remlinger, Kyle Farnsworth, and Alan Benes. We’ll also have the fifth biggest WPA game by a Cub of the season. I hope you’ll join us again for this trip down memory lane.