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Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: 2003 part 5

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The Cubs headed west for a six game trip to Colorado and San Francisco

Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Last time out, we looked at a brief three-game home set against the lowly Padres when the Cubs bats scored just one run over the final two games and dropped two of three to halt some of their positive momentum. Still, the team headed west with a 2½-game lead in the division, a welcome change for a team that had lost 95 games a year earlier. The trip would start in Colorado, a place that always brings about at least a little bit of apprehension regardless of how good the Rockies are in a given year. Then it would head to San Francisco to face a Giants team that had a blisteringly good start to the season. Can the Cubs hold on to their extremely early division lead?

Game 23, April 25: Cubs 11 at Rockies 7 (14-9)

If you haven’t yet picked up on the unabashed love I had for Mark Prior yet, you probably haven’t been paying attention. There were a lot of guys who came to the Cubs who I thought could maybe be the center piece of a competitive team. Mark was the first guy who I looked at like some kind of messiah (Kris Bryant would be the second). If you look up at the score, you’d probably be surprised that I’d talk about the starting pitcher. But this score is in no way reflective of the performance of Prior. He threw seven innings in this one, allowing five hits, one walk and two runs. He struck out seven. This was his fourth Superhero start in his first five starts of the season (the other was a Billy Goat). Even with that one bad start in there, Mark finished April with a 4-1 record over five starts. He threw 37 innings and allowed 24 hits, seven walks and nine runs (seven earned) for a 1.70 ERA. He struck out 38. Mark would win two Pitcher of the Month awards. This was not one of them.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Mark Prior (.253). He left with the Cubs leading 8-1. Oh yeah, he also would have been the Hero for his hitting. He had two hits including a solo homer and a three-run double. (.181)
  • Hero: Corey Patterson (.163). Corey had a huge game with three singles, a home run, three runs and three RBI in five plate appearances.
  • Sidekick: Hee-Seop Choi (.049). Choi had a hit, a walk, a run, an RBI and two strikeouts in five plate appearances.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.067). Mark had just one walk in six plate appearances.
  • Goat: Troy O’Leary (-.054). Tough luck for Troy. He had two hits, two runs, two RBI and a sacrifice fly in five plate appearances.
  • Kid: Mark Bellhorn (-.047). The third Mark had one hit in five at bats and struck out once.

Game 24, April 26: Cubs 5 at Rockies 8 (14-10)

Alan Benes was the lesser known of the two Benes brothers. Alan was originally drafted by the Padres in the 49th round of the ‘90 draft. He didn’t sign and then the Cardinals drafted in 16th overall in ‘93. Alan attended Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest, IL before going on to star at Creighton University. He made his debut for the Cards in 1995. He then finished seventh for Rookie of the Year in 1996. He lost an entire season to injury in 1998. He came to the Cubs originally in 2002 as a free agent. He might make one of those lists of guys you don’t remember as a Cub, having only appeared in 10 games and thrown 47⅔ innings as a Cub, For his career he appeared in 115 games over eight seasons, 70 of those appearances were starts. The vast majority of his career was with the Cardinals. He only appeared in four games for the ‘03 Cubs, but had a 2.16 ERA over 8⅓ innings.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Alex Gonzalez (.106). Alex had an unusual day. He had a single and two hit by pitches. He also scored a run in four plate appearances.
  • Hero: Alan Benes (.042). Alan got into this one early after a disastrous start, allowing four hits, one walk and one run. He struck out four.
  • Sidekick: Corey Patterson (.017). Corey had a solo homer and scored two runs in four at bats with one strike out.
  • Billy Goat: Shawn Estes (-.455). Shawn started this one, but he lasted just two innings, allowing 12 hits, seven runs and walked one. He did strike out one. This wasn’t even the worst WPA game of the year for Shawn.
  • Goat: Eric Karros (-.048). Eric was hitless in one at bat. It was a double play to end the game.
  • Kid: Troy O’Leary (-.043). Troy struck out in his only at bat.

Game 25, April 27: Cubs 3 at Rockies 6 (14-11)

Kyle Farnsworth was drafted by the Cubs in the 47th round of the ‘94 draft. He reached the majors at age 23 in 1999. He would reach the team as a starter in ‘99, but his success would come out of the bullpen. Kyle ended up pitching parts of 16 seasons in the major leagues. He appeared in 893 games and recorded 57 saves. He threw 988⅔ innings. He pitched for nine different teams, but by a wide margin the most time was spent with the Cubs. Ironically, he had some of the worst numbers of his career as a Cub despite his longevity in Chicago. We’ll talk about it more as the season wears on, but ‘03 was a strong season for Kyle. One of two very strong seasons he had for the Cubs (the other in ‘01).

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Eric Karros (.101). Eric had just one hit, but it was a solo homer. He was also walked once in four plate appearances.
  • Hero/Sidekick: Corey Patterson/Mark Guthrie (.073). Corey had a hit, a walk and an RBI in four plate appearances. Mark retired the only two batters he faced. He retired the final batter of the seventh inning with runners on the corners (Todd Helton) and then the first batter in the eighth (Larry Walker). Nice appearance.
  • Billy Goat: Sammy Sosa (-.133). Sammy was hitless in four at bats with one strike outs. Carlos Zambrano’s hitting was actually moved out (-.140) despite Carlos actually having one hit in three at bats.
  • Goat: Kyle Farnsworth (-.124). Kyle recorded two outs, but he also allowed two hits and two runs, including a home run.
  • Kid: Carlos Zambrano (-.104). Carlos threw 6⅔ innings and allowed five hits, four walks and four runs while striking out five. Dusty Baker probably should have considered pulling Carlos after allowing a double and a walk with one out in the seventh.

Game 26, April 29: Cubs 4 at Giant 2 (15-11)

Mike Remlinger is one of those guys who I’ll always remember as being old looking. He was originally drafted by the Giants with the 16th pick in the 1987 draft. He reached the majors at the age of 25 in 1991. By 1994, it had to seem like Mike would not have much of a career as he’d thrown only eight games at the MLB level in that 1991 season. After two more seasons in the minors, he reached the major leagues in 1994 for 10 games with the Mets and two more with the Reds. Despite the late start to his career, Mike would pitch in parts of 14 seasons in the majors. He’d appear in 879 innings over 639 appearances. He pitched for six teams. The most successful stop was in Atlanta where he worked in parts of five seasons over two stints. In 2002, he made his lone All-Star appearance as a Brave. Then he signed with the Cubs as a free agent. It seems like a very Cub thing to do from those years to get a guy after the best years of his career. But Mike threw in 156 games over parts of three seasons for the Cubs and recorded a 3.89 ERA over 138⅔ innings of work. So he was far from washed up.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Mike Remlinger (.217). Mike got the last out of the seventh inning after coming in with runners on second and third and two outs. He then pitched a scoreless eighth, walking one but retiring Barry Bonds.
  • Hero: Kerry Wood (.104). Kerry was strong in this one, allowing seven hits, four walks and one run (on a solo homer) in six innings of work. he struck out eight.
  • Sidekick: Moises Alou (.094). Alou had two hits including a solo homer. He drove in two on the day in his four at bats.
  • Billy Goat: Corey Patterson (-.037). After dropping an 0-3 for Wood, Corey lands in the bottom spot. He did have a hit and a run, but he struck out twice in four at bats.
  • Goat: Damian Miller (-.028). Damian also had one hit in four at bats.
  • Kid: Juan Cruz (-.025). He allowed two hits out of the four batters he faced before Remlinger bailed him out.

Game 27, April 30: Cubs 0 at Giants 5 (15-12)

Matt Clement was 28 years old for the 2003 Cubs. He set a career high in wins that season with 14. He was 14-12 with a 4.11 ERA over 32 starts and 201⅔ innings. Matt had battled control problems as a Padre earlier in his career, including leading the major leagues in walks (125) and wild pitches (23) in 2000. Matt threw 101 wild pitches in a nine year career. He lead the league in wild pitches three times (‘00, ‘01 and ‘03). He also hit 94 batters, five times hitting a dozen or more hitters. But in 2003, Matt was a fairly steady hand for Dusty’s Cubs. He threw two complete games and had one shutout. He had a 171 to 79 strikeouts to walks ratio. He’d been a little better in 2002 (3.60 ERA and would also post a 3.68 in 2004), but he had the most effective years of his career as a Cub.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Lenny Harris (.015). Jason Schmidt was flat out dominant for the Giants in a complete game shut out. Lenny had one of three Cubs hits.
  • Hero: Mark Bellhorn (.007). Mark also had a pinch single.
  • Sidekick: Kyle Farnsworth (.003). Kyle threw a scoreless inning and struck out two.
  • Billy Goat: Matt Clement (-.225). Matt was touched for five hits, two walks and five runs. included were two home runs by Barry Bonds.
  • Goat: Corey Patterson (-.074). Three at bats. Three strike outs.
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.062). Alex was hitless in four at bats.

Game 28, May 1: Cubs 5 at Giants 1 (16-12)

In the last of five career two homer games, Alex Gonzalez produced the fourth largest WPA game of the season. The Cubs were losing this one 1-0 in the sixth inning, a day after having been shut out by Jason Schmidt and Damian Moss was doing it again. But Gonzalez took him deep to tie the game at 1-1 (.166). The score would remain there until the 10th inning. Ramon Martinez lead off with a single, after a fielder’s choice and a ground out, it looked like the 10th would be a quiet one too. But the Mark Grudzielanek reached on an error to keep the inning alive. Alex Gonzalez would hit his second homer of the game (.461). Sammy Sosa would follow with a homer of his own as the Cubs rode four unearned runs to a 5-1 win to take two of three from the Giants. This was the Giants second consecutive and second overall series loss of the season.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Alex Gonzalez (.569). Alex had just the two hits in five at bats and struck out twice. But he made it count.
  • Hero: Juan Cruz (.239). Juan threw perfect innings in the eighth and ninth inning. He struck out two.
  • Sidekick: Mark Prior (.193). Ho hum. six innings, six hits, three walks, one run. Seven strike outs. Only reaches the Sidekick spot.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.174). Mark had one hit and a run scored in five at bats. He struck out once.
  • Goat: Corey Patterson (-.132). Corey had one hit and two strikeouts in four plate appearances.
  • Kid: Hee-Seop Choi (-.072). After Prior’s two hitless at bats are moved out, Choi’s hitless pinch hitting appearance ends up here. Each of them struck out once.

So there you have it. The Cubs dropped two of three in Colorado but then bounced back to take two of three from the NL West-leading Giants. After winning the first game of the trip, the Cubs saw their division lead reach the largest margin in the early going at three. However, losses in three of the next four games saw it drop down to just one. Still, they return home off of a decent trip with the division lead and come home with a 16-12 record.

Up next: The Cubs return home for an eight game homestand against three teams. The Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals came to town. The Cubs get a rematch with the Rockies to complete the season series and then see two division foes for the first time. We’ll introduce Joe Borowski, Juan Cruz and Ramon Martinez, three guys with vastly different sized parts to play in this story.

Until next time, thank you as always for reading.