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Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: 2003, part 7

The Cubs headed out on a 13-game trip. Here’s a look at the first half of it.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome back to Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: 2003 edition. It’s been a while since we checked in, so let’s recap where we were. When last we looked back, the Cubs had just completed eight games out of a scheduled nine game homestand. The Sunday game against the Cardinals had been rained out after four innings. The Cardinals lost utility man Eli Marrero in the partial game. The Cubs? They split the eight games. A disappointing result after they had compiled 16 wins in their first 28 games. Still, even with the disappointing homestand, a team that lost 95 wins in 2002 was 20-16 and a 1½-game lead in the division. All in all, not too bad.

But next up, the Cubs were heading out on a four-city 13-game trip. Back to back four-game sets with the Brewers and Cardinals started the trip and then stops in Pittsburgh and Houston finished it out. For those of you that don’t recall, in 2003 the Brewers were already in the National League and the Astros hadn’t yet left it. So all of these games were division games. Let’s dive into the action and see if the Cubs would add to their lead, hold steady or falter.

Game 37, May 12: Cubs 11 at Brewers 5 (21-16)

Mark Grudzielanek was in his age 33 season in 2003 for the Cubs. He actually received MVP votes (finishing 27th in the voting) for a season that saw him compile a .314/.366/.416 line (OPS+ 103) which was one of the best marks of his career. He only hit three home runs, but he had 38 doubles. Mark was a better offensive player for the Cubs than he was for any team in his big league career. Unfortunately, he missed more than 60 games due to an injury early in the 2004 season. He then left as a free agent after the 2004 season.

Three Heroes, Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Ramon Martinez (.220). Ramon had a single, a double in six plate appearances. He drove in two runs and scored once.
  • Hero: Moises Alou (.131). Moises had four hits in six at bats including one of three Cub homers on the day. He drove in two runs and scored once.
  • Sidekick: Mark Grudzielanek (.120). Mark also had four hits, including two doubles, in six plate appearances. He scored two runs and also had a walk.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Prior (-.052). Prior hung around for six innings in this one. He allowed seven hits, four walks, two homers, and four runs. He did strike out 11 though. His hitting graded out even worse at (-.064), despite having a hit and scoring a run.
  • Goat: Corey Patterson (-.033). Corey had a single, a run and an RBI in six plate appearances. Somebody had to make the outs.
  • Kid: Troy O’Leary (-.022). Troy was one of six Cubs with two or more hits. He had two of them, including a home run. He scored two and drove in two. Alas, it was already 10-4 Cubs when he hit the home run.

Game 38, May 13: Cubs 7 at Brewers 2 (22-16)

Hee-Seop Choi received quite a number of starts that May. He amassed 75 plate appearances. In those plate appearances, he had a line of .231/.333/462 (wRC+ 104). He had nine doubles and two home runs, drove in seven runs and scored eight. He was productive, but less than you’d hope for a first baseman to be sure. In June, he was involved in a nasty collision with Kerry Wood and suffered a concussion. While he was out, Eric Karros supplanted him as the primary starter for the Cubs. Choi would never again be a regular starter for the Cubs.

Three Heroes, Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Moises Alou (.180). Alou had two more hits, including a double, in five plate appearances. He scored two and drove in one.
  • Hero: Shawn Estes (.165). Shawn had one of his better starts as a Cub, throwing seven innings and allowing five hits, a home run, three walks and two runs. He struck out five.
  • Sidekick: Hee-Seop Choi (.116). Choi had two hits in five plate appearances. The hits were a double and a homer. He drove in two runs and scored two as well.
  • Billy Goat: Alex Gonzalez (-.125). Alex was hitless in four at bats.
  • Goat: Joe Borowski (.008). Tough crowd. On a day where the only two negative scores were Gonzalez and Shawn Estes as a hitter, someone had to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Joe threw a perfect ninth, striking out one.
  • Kid: Damian Miller (.012). Miller had three walks in five plate appearances. He did not figure in the scoring.

Game 39, May 14: Cubs 6 at Brewers 1 (23-16)

Carlos Zambrano had 23 game scores above 50 (Fangraphs Game Score v2) in 2003. 15 of them were 60 or better. Five of them were 80 or better. On this day, he recorded an 84. He threw eight innings allowing three hits, one walk and one run. He struck out seven. When Carlos was on, he could dominate.

Three Heroes, Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Carlos Zambrano (.453). The only thing he didn’t do well on this day was hit. He was hitless in three at bats and struck out once.
  • Hero: Troy O’Leary (.076). Troy got a little playing time in this series and made the most of it. He had just one hit, but it was a three-run homer in the eighth inning that blew open what had been a 2-0 game.
  • Sidekick: Paul Bako (.066). Paul had an RBI double to show for his four plate appearances.
  • Billy Goat: Moises Alou (-.068). Just one walk in four plate appearances. But he did score a run.
  • Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.051). Mark had a single and a run scored in his four plate appearances.

Game 40, May 15: Cubs 4 at Brewers 2 (24-16)

Cubs pitching placed a whopping three pitchers above the (.400) level for WPA on this day and none of them was the Superhero. Kerry Wood started it off with seven shutout innings. He allowed only three hits and two walks while striking out 13. This game was scoreless until the seventh, reached extra innings at 1-1 and lasted 17 innings. Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz each threw three scoreless innings for the Cubs as they ultimately won this one and swept the four game set from the Brewers.

Three Heroes, Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Corey Patterson (.782). Corey’s first at bat wasn’t until the eighth inning when he had a one out single and stole a base, but didn’t score. He then had a two-out, RBI single in the 10th (.349). He was retired in the 12th and 15th innings. But then he batted with two outs and a man on in the 17th against former Cub draftee Brooks Kieschnick. Corey took him deep. (.484). This was the second highest WPA recorded by a Cub in 2003.
  • Hero: Kerry Wood (.470). Seven shutout innings is not often going to be upstaged, but on this day it was.
  • Sidekick (tie): Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth (.422). Juan allowed three hits and a walk while striking out two. Kyle allowed only one hit and struck out four.
  • Billy Goat: Joe Borowski (-.294). Joe blew the save attempt in the 10th after Corey’s go ahead single. He allowed one hit, one walk and one run in one inning of work.
  • Goat: Damian Miller (-.277). Just one hit in seven plate appearances. He did score a run. And of course, he caught 17 innings.
  • Kid: Ramon Martinez (-.268). Ramon also had one hit and two strike outs in seven plate appearances.

Game 41, May 16: Cubs 4 at Cardinals 7 (24-17)

The day after a 17 inning game, you hope your starter can give you a strong outing. Matt Clement did give the Cubs six innings. In so doing, he put up the seventh worst WPA score of the 2003 Cubs season. He allowed eight hits, a walk, a home run and six runs, all earned. He did strike out six.

Three Heroes, Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Troy O’Leary (.118). Troy stayed hot as he continued to fill in for an injured Sammy Sosa with two hits, including a double in four at bats. He had one RBI.
  • Hero: Moises Alou (.102). Alou had a single, a double, a run and an RBI in four at bats.
  • Sidekick: Paul Bako (.071). Paul had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances.
  • Billy Goat: Matt Clement (-.509). He also struck out in each of his two at bats.
  • Goat: Hee-Seop Choi (-.131). Choi was hitless in four at bats with two strike outs.
  • Kid: Mark Grudzielanek (-.079). Mark was hitless, but he did pick up an RBI and was hit by a pitch. He was also caught stealing.

Game 42, May 17: Cubs 2 at Cards 1 (25-17)

The Cubs were generally as good as whatever they got from their starter in 2003. Mark Prior not only pitched into the eighth inning of this one, but had also had three hits, including a double, and scored one of the two Cub runs. Mark had a .201/.231/.265 career line as a hitter. This was the only three hit game of his career.

Three Heroes, Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Mark Bellhorn (.339). Just one at bat on the day, but he was a solo homer in the ninth and propelled the Cubs to a win.
  • Hero: Mark Prior (.201). He threw 7 13 innings, allowing six hits, two walks and one run on a solo homer. He struck out six. His hitting registered (.170) as well.
  • Sidekick: Joe Borowski (.198). Joe worked around a hit allowed in the ninth to notch the save.
  • Billy Goat: Alex Gonzalez (-.236). One walk in five plate appearances and two strike outs.
  • Goat: Eric Karros (-.122). One walk in five plate appearances.
  • Kid: Damian Miller (-.102). One strike out in four at bats.

Game 43, May 18: Cubs 3 at Cardinals 6 (25-18)

Antonio Alfonseca was originally signed by the Montreal Expos as an international free agent in 1989. In 1993, the Marlins picked up in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Nicknamed “Pulpo” (Spanish for octopus), Antonio was probably known for having six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Debuting in 1997, he’d appear in 307 games as a Marlin and notch 102 saves. He came to the Cubs with Matt Clement in a trade near the end of spring training in 2002. That deal included Julian Tavarez and Dontrelle Willis. He won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997. All together, he appeared in 11 big league seasons, threw in 592 games, pitched for five different teams and had 129 saves.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Hee-Seop Choi (.203). Choi had a double, a walk and an RBI in his three plate appearances.
  • Hero: Troy O’Leary (.139). O’Leary had two singles and a walk in four plate appearances. He scored a run.
  • Sidekick: Moises Alou (.051). Moises had a single, a run and an RBI in four at bats.
  • Billy Goat: Antonio Alfronseca (-.353). Alfonseca was summoned with two outs and a runner on second to face Albert Pujols in a 3-3 tie. Pujols singled. Antonio then made an error on a pick off attempt and Scott Rolen followed with a two-run home-run. A scoreless eighth was small consolation.
  • Goat: Ramon Martinez (-.185). Ramon was hitless in three at bats.
  • Kid: Damian Miller (-.114). Miller also was hitless in three and struck out once.

Game 44, May 19: Cubs 0 at Cardinals 2 (25-19)

Moises Alou had 117 plate appearances in May of 2003. He had a .324/.376/.481 line (wRC+ 124). He had eight doubles, three homers, drove in 13 and scored 13. He generally hit fourth, dropping down to fifth on occasion. But he was a fixture in the middle of the Cubs lineup throughout.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Carlos Zambrano (.209). Carlos was superb, allowing only one unearned run (though it was his error that set up the run) in seven innings of work. He allowed five hits, three walks and struck out four.
  • Hero: Tom Goodwin (.026). Two negatives on the Hero side. Oof. The Cubs mustered only four hits as Cardinals starter Matt Morris threw a complete game shutout. Tom only had one at bat and so that put him in the second spot, despite not getting on.
  • Sidekick: Lenny Harris (-.034). Lenny actually had one hit in his three at bats.
  • Billy Goat: Alex Gonalez (-.118). Alex was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
  • Goat: Moises Alou (-.089). One of only four times all month Alou was entirely kept off base. He was hitless in three at bats.
  • Kid: Troy O’Leary (-.086). Hitless in three at bats.

We’ll stop there for today. The Cubs started their trip with eight games in eight days. They won the first four, though the fourth win took them 17 innings to complete. They then moved to St. Louis and dropped three of four. They only added one to their division lead during their five game winning steak (starting with a win to end the homestand) and then dropped half a game off the lead while losing three of four in St. Louis. So their lead ended up at two games.

The series in St. Louis was a rarity in that it wrapped around to Monday. Saturday, Sunday and Monday were all day games. The Cubs would then have a rare Tuesday off day before five straight games in Pittsburgh and Houston to wrap up the 13 game trip. That’s where we’ll pick it up next time.

Until then, thanks for reading!