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Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: 2003, part 10

The final six games of a 12-game homestand in June.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome back. When last we checked in on our 2003 Cubs, they’d dropped four of six to start a four team, 12-game homestand. They’d lost two each to division rival Pirates and Astros (back when they were still in the National League). Their record had fallen to 30-25, still good for a team that had lost more than 90 games a year earlier, but well off of their early season pace. Their division lead was down to a single game.

An off day was next and then the Devil Rays and Yankees would come to town. Dusty Baker would get to match wits with Lou Piniella and Joe Torre, two of the most experienced managers in the game. What would these six games hold for the Cubs? Let’s find out.

Game 56, June 3: Cubs 3, Devil Rays 2 (31-25)

By June of 2003, Ramon Martinez was not quite a regular, but he was seeing a steady stream of playing time from Dusty Baker. As I’d noted previously, the two had also worked together in San Francisco. That June, Martinez got 78 plate appearances and had a line of .257/.308/.414 (wRC+ 85). He started games at second and third primarily. One of the holes on that team was certainly third base. Mark Bellhorn was the original third baseman on the team, but by May 14, he had a .210/.357/.300 line and Dusty basically removed him from the lineup. After that date, he started only eight more games as a Cub, over a one month period, before being traded. Ramon Martinez was the beneficiary to Bellhorn’s lost playing time.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Ramon Martinez (.221). Ramon had an RBI double in the sixth inning with the Cubs trailing 2-0. He was also the recipient of one of four Cub hit by pitches in this game.
  • Hero: Hee-Seop Choi (.209). Choi had two hits and a walk in his four plate appearances. He scored twice.
  • Sidekick: Tom Goodwin (.168). Tom had a walk in a Cubs eighth inning rally that went like this: walk, hit by pitch, walk, RBI-fielder’s choice, hit by pitch. The Cubs scored a run without the benefit of a hit.
  • Billy Goat: Moises Alou (-.133). Alou had only one hit in five at bats.
  • Goat: Corey Patterson (-.110). Corey actually had two hits, including a triple, in his five plate appearances. He lands here because he grounded out with the bases loaded to end that eighth inning (-.134).
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.105). Alex had one hit in four at bats.

Game 57, June 4: Cubs 2, Devil Rays 5 (31-26)

Paul Bako didn’t get a lot of playing time in June, despite the offensive woes of Damian Miller. Bako was even worse. He provided the kind of numbers you might expect out of a pitcher. He had 36 plate appearances in June. He managed three doubles among five hits and he scored just one run. He had a line of .152/.200/.242 (wRC+ 2). Ouch.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Hee-Seop Choi (.048). Choi pops up on the positive side for the second straight day. This time he got there via reaching base on an error that scored a run (.055) and a walk in four plate appearances.
  • Hero: Antonio Alfonseca (.008). Antonio worked around a hit and a walk in throwing a scoreless inning.
  • Sidekick: Mark Guthrie (.004). Guthrie also worked a scoreless inning, though his was even scarier. He allowed two hits and a walk.
  • Billy Goat: Shawn Estes (-.192). Here we go again. Shawn wasn’t quite as awful this time. He allowed eight hits, three walks and five runs. In seven innings of work. It’s hard to imagine a guy these days pitching seven innings on a day he allowed five runs.
  • Goat: Ramon Martinez (-.099). From the Superhero one day to the Goat the next. Martinez had just one walk in four plate appearances.
  • Kid: Paul Bako (-.060). Paul was hitless in three at bats.

Game 58, June 5: Cubs 8, Devil Rays 1 (32-26)

It was suggested earlier in one of the comments sections that Sammy Sosa was never the same after being hit in the head earlier in the year. Granted at his best Sammy did some pretty super-human stuff (because he was essentially super-human?), but in June of ‘03 he was pretty good. He had 83 plate appearances and a line of .319/.398/.528 (wRC+ 139). He hit four homers, scored 15 runs and drove in 12. Those are All-Star level numbers.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Matt Clement (.178). Clement was strong in this one, going seven innings and allowing seven hits, two walks and one run. He struck out seven.
  • Hero: Sammy Sosa (.109). Sammy had a hit, a run and an RBI in his four plate appearances.
  • Sidekick: Alex Gonzalez (.096). Gonzalez had two hits, a run and an RBI in his four plate appearances.
  • Billy Goat: Ramon Martinez (-.037). Martinez had a hit, a walk, a run and an RBI but lands down here anyway.
  • Goat: Moises Alou (-.030). Alou left this one early with the Cubs sporting a big lead. He was hitless in two at bats before that.
  • Kid: Damian Miller (-.012). Damian had one walk in four plate appearances.

Game 59, June 6: Cubs 3, Yankees 5 (32-27)

Hee-Seop Choi actually had a nice start to the month of June. He started all three games of the Rays series and had a pair of two hit games, scored three runs and drove in another. Then he pinch hit in this one and the next day he got hurt. He didn’t appear again until June 30 and then he only got another 77 plate appearances in the rest of the regular season (with a line of .164/.263/.269, wRC+ of 43). Choi wasn’t a star by any means before the injury, but he never got enough playing time to make any impact with the Cubs after that.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Corey Patterson (.071). Corey had two hits, including a solo homer, in four at bats.
  • Hero: Moises Alou (.062). Alou had two hits in four at bats.
  • Sidekick: Antonio Alfonseca (.056). Two strikeouts and a walk among the three batters he faced.
  • Billy Goat: Carlos Zambrano (-.219). Carlos allowed nine hits, three walks and five runs in six innings of work. He struck out five and allowed one home run.
  • Goat: Hee-Seop Choi (-.147). He struck out with runners on second and third to end the game. Against Mariano Rivera. It happens.
  • Kid: Eric Karros (-.101). Eric had a hit in four at bats.

Game 60, June 7: Cubs 5, Yankees 2 (33-27)

In a duel of famed Texas starting pitchers, Kerry Wood outdueled Roger Clemens. Kerry made six starts that June. He got a decision in all six of them, with a 4-2 record. He pitched 43⅔ innings. He never failed to go at least six innings and had starts of nine, eight, seven and 7⅔ in that stretch. He had a 3.09 ERA (3.74 FIP) and struck out 54 batters with only 15 walks. Kerry was getting it done.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Eric Karros (.409). With the Cubs trailing 1-0 in the seventh, Roger Clemens allowed a Sosa single and an Alou walk. The Yankees went to the pen. Eric Karros hit a three-run homer to propel the Cubs to victory. He only had two at bats on the day after coming in to replace the injured Choi.
  • Hero: Kerry Wood (.188). This was the game where Kerry lasted 7⅔ innings. He allowed only three hits and three walks. He struck out 11. He allowed one run on a Hideki Matsui homer.
  • Sidekick: Mike Remlinger (.132). Remlinger got the last out of the eighth by way of strike out.
  • Billy Goat: Corey Patterson (-.103). Corey was hitless in four at bats. The Cubs only had seven hits and one walk in scoring five runs.
  • Goat: Alex Gonzalez (-.082). Alex actually had a hit, a run and an RBI, so this is a bit of tough luck.
  • Kid: Lenny Harris (-.036). Lenny was hitless in his three at bats.

Game 61, June 8: Cubs 8, Yankees 7 (34-27)

Mark Prior made five June starts. He was 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA (2.67 FIP). He struck out 44 batters in 33⅔ innings and walked only five. His only real blemish was allowing four home runs. He pitched into the sixth inning in every start, only failing to reach six innings once when he threw 5⅔. Wood and Prior were quickly becoming a ferocious duo.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Moises Alou (.257). Moises had a huge game with three hits and three RBI. Among his three hits was a three-run first inning homer.
  • Hero: Mark Prior (.094). Mark threw six in this one. He allowed seven hits, one walk and three runs. He did allow two home runs. He struck out 10.
  • Sidekick: Antonio Alfonseca (.044). Alfonseca recorded three outs in the eighth inning after Mike Remlinger allowed the only two batters he faced to score.
  • Billy Goat: Mike Remlinger (-.045). A walk to Jorge Posada and a two-run homer to Robin Ventura was all she wrote.
  • Goat: Alex Gonzalez (-.010). Alex had a hit, an RBI and two runs scored. But he lands down here.
  • Kid: Lenny Harris/Damian Miller (.008). Miller had one hit and a run in four at bats and Lenny was hitless in his one at bat.

The Cubs finished the homestand and opened interleague play by taking two of three from each of the Devil Rays and Yankees. You certainly look at a 12-game homestand as a chance to make some positive ground in the standings. Instead, the Cubs split the 12 games. In starting the homestand off losing four of six, they lost 1½ games in the standings from a season high 2½ ahead, to just one. In winning four of six to finish things, they actually lost two games off of what had been a lead. The team fell into second place with the loss to the Yankees in the series opener. Back to back wins didn’t get them back into first.

And so it is that the Cubs headed out on the road looking at another long road trip. This one was a three-city, 10-game trip. The first six of those games would continue interleague play in Baltimore and across the border into Canada to face the Blue Jays. The trip would end in Cincinnati for a four-game set with the Reds.

Heading into this trip, the Cubs owned a 18-14 road record. Could they build upon that and get back into first? The Orioles were a fourth place team, well off of the pace in 2003. The Blue Jays finished over .500 for the year (actually winning only two games less than the Cubs would win), but still finished in third. The Reds would finish fifth, firing manager Bob Boone before the end of July. Certainly sounds like an opportunity for a decent road team.

Next time we’ll look at those first six games as the Cubs concluded the first round of interleague play. We’ll see if they can get back on top.

Until then, thanks for reading.