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Cubs historical Heroes and Goats: 2003, part 6

The Cubs play a rain shortened eight-game homestand

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Cubs returned home for what was originally scheduled as a nine-game homestand beginning May 2. They returned home with a one-game lead in the division and a 16-12 record. With the Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals each scheduled for three games at Wrigley, the cubs would be looking to build upon their lead.

Game 29, May 2: Cubs 7, Rockies 4 (17-12)

Ramon Martinez, the one who played for the Cubs, was an infielder signed as an international free agent in 1993 by the Royals. He’s not to be confused with Ramon, the pitcher, who was the older brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez. The infielder made his MLB debut in 1998 with the Giants at the age of 25. He played in parts of five seasons for the Giants. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent before the 2003 season. He was with the Cubs for two seasons. In his career, he appeared in 798 games over a 12 year career. He had 2,206 plate appearances. He appeared and six different positions as a major leaguer, primarily short and second. He played for six different major league teams with the largest portion of his time being as a Giant.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Shawn Estes (.145). Shawn bounced back from his nightmarish outing the week before by throwing 7⅓ innings and allowing 10 hits, two walks and four runs (three earned).
  • Hero: Hee-Seop Choi (.105). Choi had two doubles, a walk and two runs scored in four plate appearances.
  • Sidekick: Mark Bellhorn (.095). Mark was the hitting star with a single, a double, a walk, a sacrifice fly, and three RBI in four plate appearances.
  • Billy Goat: Moises Alou (-.115). Moises was hitless in four at bats with a strikeout.
  • Goat: Ramon Martinez (-.024). Martinez had a walk and a hit by pitch in four plate appearances. He was credited with an RBI on a ground out with the bases loaded.
  • Kid: Mark Guthrie (-.021). Mark walked the only batter he faced.

Game 30, May 3: Cubs 4, Rockies 6 (17-13)

Carlos Zambrano is remembered by many Cubs fans for his offensive prowess. He hit his first major league home run in this game. Carlos would go on to hit 24 home runs and drive in 71 runs over his 12 year career. In 2003, he had a .240/.250/.387 line and for his career, he was at .238/.248/.388, remarkably similar numbers. Carlos would ultimately have a six-homer and two four-homer seasons. So he was a dangerous hitting pitcher, to say the least.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Eric Karros (.102). Eric moves into the first spot after Carlos’ hitting is dropped. Eric had two hits, a walk, and a run scored in four plate appearances.
  • Hero: Mike Remlinger (.097). Mike threw one of the messiest innings you’ll ever see. He faced six hitters, walked three and struck out two. But he escaped unscathed and in the end, that’s what registers with WPA.
  • Sidekick: Carlos Zambrano (.072). Besides being the hitting hero, Carlos threw six innings and allowed eight hits, three walks and three runs. He struck out seven. When he left after six, the Cubs were leading 4-3.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Guthrie (-.332). Things got worse a day later for Mark. He allowed a walk and a two run homer to Preston Wilson. He was aided by a caught stealing or the damage may have been worse. He recorded two outs to get out of the eighth.
  • Goat: Kyle Farnsworth (-.247). All of the Rockies damage came in the eighth inning started by Kyle. He allowed a walk and a single while only recording one out.
  • Kid: Tom Goodwin (-.119). Tom was hitless in four at bats.

Game 31, May 4: Cubs 5, Rockies 4 (18-13)

Alex Gonzalez had a disappointing 2003 season at the plate. He played in 152 games and had 601 plate appearances, but he managed a line of only .228/.295/.409. He did hit a career high 20 homers for what that is worth. You may remember that we talked about Alex a fair amount in the first couple of parts of this series. Alex was hitting .436/.500/.641 through the first 10 games of the season. If you take those first 10 games out of the equation, he hit just .211/.279/.390 over 556 plate appearances. Go back up and look at Carlos Zambrano’s career numbers. You’d have rather had Zambrano batting than Gonalzez. Woof. Last year, we looked at the 1984 Cubs and I told you that Larry Bowa was one of the big holes on that team. This time around I’m telling you the Cubs again had a huge hole at short.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Alex Gonzalez (.418). On this day though, Alex was the Superhero. He delivered a walk-off home-run in the 10th inning for the Cubs first walkoff win of the season.
  • Hero: Mike Remlinger (.390). Mike was summoned with runners on first and second with only one out in the eighth. He retired the two hitters he faced in the eighth, then went back out and threw a perfect ninth with two strikeouts.
  • Sidekick: Ramon Martinez (.250). Martinez started this one at short and he had two hits, including a homer, and scored twice.
  • Billy Goat: Alan Benes (-.277). Benes threw 1⅓ innings and allowed three hits and two walks. He also allowed the tying run to score.
  • Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.231). Mark had just one walk in five plate appearances and struck out twice.
  • Kid: Sammy Sosa (-.192). Sammy perfectly matched Grudzielanek’s line.

Game 32, May 5: Cubs 3, Brewers 5 (18-14)

Corey Patterson had his best year at the plate for the Cubs in 2003. He had a line of .298/.329/.511 (OPS+ 114) in 347 plate appearances, as the Cubs got a glimpse of the type of player Corey could be. Unfortunately, he was injured while trying to run out a ground ball and missed the end of the season. He was never quite the same again. Did the Cubs rush Corey’s development? Maybe. Did the injury eliminate whatever margin of error there was for Corey being an above average player at the major league level? Perhaps.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Hee-Seop Choi (.078). Choi had a solo homer in three at bats. He struck out once.
  • Hero: Troy O’Leary (.075). It’s a rough day when walking in your only plate appearance lands you this high.
  • Sidekick: Eric Karros (.050). Karros homered in his only at bat. Unfortunately, the Cubs were losing 5-2 with two outs in the eighth when he hit it.
  • Billy Goat: Matt Clement (-.228). Matt threw six innings and allowed six hits, two homers, three walks and five earned runs. He struck out seven.
  • Goat: Sammy Sosa (-.144). Sammy was hitless in four at bats with three strike outs. Ben Sheets was a long time Cubs nemesis and he was a mixed bag in this one, throwing 7⅔ innings and allowing five hits and one walk but two home runs.
  • Kid: Corey Patterson (-.128). Corey was also hitless in four at bats, though he only struck out once.

Game 33, May 6: Cubs 6, Brewers 9 (18-15)

Juan Cruz was signed as an international free agent by the Cubs in 1997. He made his major league debut with them by 2001 and made eight appearances, all starts, that year and posted a 3.22 ERA in 44⅔ innings of work. The following year he had a 3.98 ERA in a combo role, starting nine games but also finishing 14, generally in a mop up role. He pitched 97⅓ innings over those 45 appearances. Unfortunately, in 2003, his ERA ballooned to 6.05. Over parts of 12 seasons, Juan had a career ERA of 4.05. He logged 655 innings in 447 games. He pitched for seven different teams with a split between the Diamondbacks and the Cubs for most innings pitched.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Corey Patterson (.393). Corey had just one hit, but it was a three run homer that gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead. The first run had also scored on a play on which Corey reached on an error. Then Corey had an RBI ground out in the fifth. So the first five runs all scored during Corey’s at bats.
  • Hero: Mark Guthrie (.095). After a couple of clunker outings, Mark bounced back to record a Hero performance. He was summoned with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh with the Cubs leading 5-3. The first batter he faced hit a line drive that turned into a double play. Still, he hit the first batter in the eighth and that run came around to score after Guthrie had left.
  • Sidekick: Mark Bellhorn (.091). Bellhorn had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. He scored two runs.
  • Billy Goat: Juan Cruz (-.477). Cruz was summoned after Guthrie’s hit by pitch. By this time, the score was 6-3 Cubs. Juan walked the first batter he faced. Eddie Perez followed with a three run homer to tie the game. Cruz would then retire the next three batters he faced. But then he went out to start the ninth and allowed a single and a walk. Those two runs would score and then one more after that to seal the Cubs fate. Cruz retired only three hitters but allowed two hits, two walks and four runs.
  • Goat: Mike Remlinger (-.259). Mike followed the Cruz outing. He allowed two hits and a walk of his own. That allowed the two inherited runs to score, and one of his own.
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.098). Alex was hitless in five at bats.

Game 34, May 7: Cubs 2, Brewers 1 (19-15)

Joe Borowski was originally drafted in the 32nd round by the White Sox in 1989. He was then traded in ‘91 for Pete Rose. No, not that Pete Rose. It was Pete’s son. He reached the majors in 1995 with the Orioles. He’d ultimately pitch in 12 seasons as a major leaguer, appearing in 423 games, finishing 268 of them and amassing 131 saves. He pitched 454⅓ innings. He pitched for seven teams, but the largest portion of his career was spent with the Cubs. He originally signed with the Cubs following the 2000 season. He didn’t pitch any games at the MLB level in 1999 or 2000 and in 2001, he appeared in exactly one game for the Cubs. It was a start, the only start of Joe’s career.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Shawn Estes (.343). Shawn was very good in this one, despite five walks. He allowed just three hits and one run over seven innings of work. He struck out seven.
  • Hero: Joe Borowski (.165). Joe did allow two hits in the ninth, nursing a one-run lead. But he struck out the other three hitters he faced and notched the save.
  • Sidekick: Antonio Alfonseca (.122). Antonio pitched a perfect eighth. It was one of those days where baseball can seem really easy for a manger. Strong start. Eighth inning reliever throws a scoreless inning, closer throws a scoreless inning.
  • Billy Goat: Tom Goodwin (-.085). Hitless in four at bats.
  • Goat: Alex Gonzalez (-.066). As was Gonzalez (following an 0-5)
  • Kid: Ramon Martinez (-.054). Ramon got a start at second and made the most of it with two hits, including a double and scored a run. Why is he here? The one out he made was the last out of the first inning with the bases loaded. Also, on his double in the fourth, Mark Bellhorn was out trying to score.

Game 35, May 9: Cubs 3, Cardinals 6 (19-16)

Lenny Harris was 38 years old playing for the Cubs in 2003. Lenny appeared in 75 games for the Cubs and had 146 plate appearances. He played first, third, left and right. He had a line of .183/.255/.229. Suffice is to say that Lenny didn’t offer a lot of offensive value by 2003. As a pinch hitter, Lenny had 46 plate appearances and a line of .200/.333/.200. I may have mentioned it before, but it irritates me enough to repeat. The Cubs released him in August. The Marlins picked him up and he won a World Series ring.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Moises Alou (.170). Moises had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. One of those hits was a solo homer.
  • Hero: Corey Patterson (.126). Corey had three hits including a solo homer of his own in four plate appearances.
  • Sidekick: Paul Bako (.038). Bako had one walk in three plate appearances.
  • Billy Goat: Carlos Zambrano (-.164). The good news? Carlos threw 7⅓ innings. The bad? He allowed eight hits, two walks and six runs. Two of the hits he allowed were homers. He did strike out six. It is hard to understand why he’d have been allowed to start the eighth inning when he allowed a homer to J.D. Drew, retired Albert Pujols and then allowed a double to Jim Edmonds. The score was 4-3 before the inning.
  • Goat: Alex Gonzalez (-.152). Hitless in four at bats (and hitless in 13 over the last three games).
  • Kid: Lenny Harris (-.137). Lenny Harris had just one hit in four at bats, getting a start at third. He lined out with runners at first and second and no outs in his second at bat and then grounded out with first and second and two outs in his last.

Game 36, May 10: Cubs 3, Cardinals 2 (20-16)

Alex Gonzalez had an unusual homestand. He had just six hits and four walks in 33 plate appearances. That was good for a line of .214/.303/.429. But he had not one, but two walk off home runs. He had just five walk-off homers in his career and two of them happened on one homestand. The other odd thing about his walk-off homers, three of them were in 2002 and two in 2003. So all five fell between May 6, 2002 and May 10, 2003 and all were with the Cubs. He played eight season in Toronto before coming to the Cubs and then played in three seasons after leaving.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Alex Gonzalez (.352). Alex had two hits in five at bats including the walk off homer in the tenth.
  • Hero: Kerry Wood (.290). Kerry pitched well enough to win, allowing four hits, three walks and one run (a solo homer) in seven innings. He struck out eight.
  • Sidekick: Corey Patterson (.170). Corey had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. One of the hits was a triple. He also scored a run.
  • Billy Goat: Joe Borowski (-.195). Borowski allowed a hit, a walk and the tying run in his eighth inning appearance. The Cards also stole two bases and one of those directly contributed to the tying run.
  • Goat: Mark Bellhorn (-.184). Mark was hitless in four at bats and struck out three times.
  • Kid: Hee-Seop Choi (-.138). Choi also was hitless in four at bats. He struck out twice.

The final scheduled game of the homestand would be rained out and played as part of a double header on September 2. Ironically, the Cubs would walk-off the first game of that double header as well. But that’s another story for another day.

But what about that last game? It was actually played. At least for a while. Al called it the Typhoon Game. I always remembered it as the Mother’s Day Monsoon. Al has written about that game previously and so I’ll let him explain it in greater detail.

So the Cubs played eight at home and split them evenly with four wins and four losses. Not the ideal result. They had come home with a one game lead in the division. By the first Saturday of the homestand, that was gone. But despite dropping three of the final five games of the homestand, they actually moved back ahead in the division by 1½ games. I hope I don’t have to explain the odds of losing three of five and increasing your lead by 1½ games.

This all had to do with the Cardinals, who were having a bit of a roller coaster season. They won three straight to start the season, then lost five of six, then won five of six, then lost six of seven, then won seven straight, then lost seven of eight. That seven of eight stretches past the weekend series with the Cubs and into the next week. Can the Cubs capitalize?

The following road trip would be the longest of the year: A 13-game trip through Milwaukee, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Houston. All were in the NL Central that season and the Astros and Cardinals would be the primary competition for the NL Central crown, so this was an important trip. The trip is so long that I’ll be breaking it up into two separate parts.

As always, thanks for reading. Please leave your comments below. Does anyone know the story of Joe Borowski’s one career start? How weird is it that all five of Alex Gonzalez’ career walk-off homers happened in one 370-day period? We started to see some weird Dusty moves in this set of games. Zambrano left in to pitch in the eighth while not pitching all that well. Joe Borowski who was the team’s closer getting beat in the eighth. And yet, every year we’ll see people ask to see both of those things... let the starter pitch longer, use the closer in the most important situation and not necessarily the ninth.