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Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: 2003, part 11

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The Cubs start a 10-game road trip with six more interleague games.

Mark Guthrie in 2003 (before No. 31 was retired!)
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In our last post, we looked at the final six games of a 12-game homestand. The games were against the Devil Rays and Yankees as the Cubs opened up interleague play. After a dismal 2-4 start to the homestand against division foes, the Cubs bounced back and took four of six to finish the homestand at an even 6-6. The split homestand dropped the Cubs out of first place for the first time since April 14. Still, they head out on the road just a game out of first.

This next trip was a 10-game, three-city trip. It would lead them through two more interleague series in Baltimore and Toronto before heading to Cincinnati to face another division foe. The last time on the road, the Cubs took eight of 13. Can they do it again? Let’s take a look and see.

Game 62, June 10: Cubs 4 at Orioles 0 (35-27)

Eric Karros played one season for the Cubs at age 35. After having been the starting first baseman for the Dodgers for 11 seasons, they went with 39-year-old Fred McGriff as their opening day first baseman. Other guys to play first for the Dodgers that year included 36 year old Ron Coomer and 35-year-old Robin Ventura, giving the spot a very Chicago feel. Karros came to the Cubs to platoon with rookie Hee-Seop Choi as Choi was breaking into the majors. Stardom was projected for Choi, so as the short side of the platoon, Karros wasn’t looking at a lot of playing time. Alas, Choi got injured and Karros ended up playing in 114 games and having 365 plate appearances. He managed a .286/.340/.446 line that was his best since a strong 1999 season. Eric hit 12 homers and drove in 40 runs for the Cubs.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Shawn Estes (.297). Credit where it is due, Shawn was excellent in this one. He threw seven innings and allowed six hits, two walks and struck out five.
  • Hero: Eric Karros (.126). Karros had two hits, including a second inning RBI-double that gave the Cubs their first run, in four at bats.
  • Sidekick: Alex Gonzalez (.073). Alex had three hits including a solo homer in five at bats. Five Cubs had two or more hits in a 14 hit assault.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.075). Despite all of that offense, Mark struggled. He was held hitless in five at bats.
  • Goat: Lenny Harris (-.047). Harris was hitless in four at bats, getting the start at third.
  • Kid: Troy O’Leary (-.040). Troy had a hit and an RBI in four at bats. He got the start in left while Moises Alou was the DH.

Game 63, June 11: Cubs 7 at Orioles 6 (36-27)

Joe Borowski made 12 appearances that June. He pitched a total of 12⅔ innings and was 0-1 with five saves over the stretch. He had a 4.26 ERA (4.93 FIP). He struck out 10, but he walked six. He also allowed two homers. As is often the case for relievers, his month was largely tanked by one bad outing on June 26 where he allowed three runs in one inning of work and took the loss.

For the Cubs, this four-game winning streak pushed their record to nine over .500 for the first time.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Joe Borowski (.327). Joe was very good in this one. He inherited runners at first and third with one out in the eighth inning and the Cubs holding a 7-5 lead. The first batter hit a grounder to short, but the Cubs couldn’t complete the double play, allowing a run to score. After a stolen base and passed ball, Joe got a strike out to end the inning. He then worked around a one out single in the ninth to notch the save.
  • Hero: Matt Clement (.209). Cubs pitching was good at the beginning and at the end. Not so much in the middle. Clement threw six innings, allowing four hits, two walks and two runs. He struck out six.
  • Sidekick: Damian Miller (.144). Miller had two hits in four at bats. Included was a two run double in the fourth inning to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. He also scored a run.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Guthrie (-.140). Mark faced one batter, just in front of Borowski coming into the game. He allowed a one out, RBI-single, allowing an inherited runner to score.
  • Goat: Antonio Alfonseca (-.068). Alfonseca faced three batters in that eighth inning. He game in after Kyle Farnsworth had allowed singles to the first two hitters. The Cubs were leading 7-2 at this point. Antonio walked the first batter, then got a line out. The next hitter had a two-run single to cut the lead to 7-4.
  • Kid: Ramon Martinez (-.050). Ramon was hitless in four at bats on the day, starting this game at third.

Game 64, June 12: Cubs 1 at Orioles 6 (36-28)

Alex Gonzalez was in his age 30 season for the Cubs in 2003, his second with the team. He played in 152 games and had 601 plate appearances. He had 20 homers and 59 RBI. His line was .228/.295/.409. His wRC+ was 81. He did post 1.6 fWAR. It’s hard to imagine a player getting over 600 plate appearances these days with an OBP below .300, but manager Dusty Baker was firmly old school. So not only did Alex play, but over half of those plate appearances were from the second spot in the order.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Eric Karros (.052). Eric had two hits in three at bats, both doubles, in this one and drove in the Cubs lone run.
  • Hero: Mark Grudzielanek (.035). Grudzy had one hit in four at bats.
  • Sidekick: Mark Guthrie (.001). Guthrie worked around three hits allowed in a single inning of work.
  • Billy Goat: Carlos Zambrano (-.267). Carlos only lasted two innings in this one, allowing five hits, one walk and four runs (three earned). He struck out one. This was the only start of the year in which he didn’t pitch into the fifth inning.
  • Goat: Paul Bako (-.062). Bako was hitless in three at bats.
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.060). This was one of those games hitting second. He was hitless in four at bats. He struck out once.

Game 65, June 13: Cubs 1 at Blue Jays 5 (36-29)

Troy O’Leary was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 13th round of the 1987 draft. If you are like me, you remember Troy as a Red Sox. After two small cups of coffee for the Brewers in 1993 and 1994, Troy went to the Red Sox in 1995 and for seven years played in over 100 games per year for the Red Sox, hitting 10 or more homers in every one of them. In 1999, he had a 28 homer, 103 RBI season. He signed as a free agent with the Expos in 2002 and then with the Cubs in 2003. In all, Troy played in 1,198 major league games, amassing 4,418 plate appearances with a .276/.332/.448 line.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Corey Patterson (.070). Corey had two hits in four at bats. The Cubs managed 12 hits in this one, but only one run.
  • Hero: Tom Goodwin (.060). Goodwin had a three hit game, including a double and he drove in the Cubs lone run.
  • Sidekick: Alex Gonzalez (.007). Alex had two hits in five at bats. But he struck out in all of the others.
  • Billy Goat: Kerry Wood (-.131). Kerry made it back to back clunker starts for the Cubs. He threw six innings and allowed seven hits, two walks, three homers and five runs. He did strike out eight.
  • Goat: Troy O’Leary (-.120). Playing in American League parks meant A) extra playing time for Troy but also B) seeing some pitchers who were familiar with him from his days in the AL. He was hitless in four at bats.
  • Kid: Moises Alou (-.114). Moises had one hit in four at bats.

Game 66, June 14: Cubs 4 at Blue Jays 2 (37-29)

Moises Alou was in his age 36 year in 2003 with the Cubs, the second year of a three-year deal he signed with the team following the 2001 season in which he was an All-Star for the Astros. Moises played in 151 games in 2003 and had 638 plate appearances. He managed a line of .280/.357/.462. He hit 22 homers and drove in 91 runs. All of these numbers were far better than a subpar 2002 season that saw him only appear in 132 games and hit 15 homers.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Moises Alou (.184). Alou had two hits, two RBI and a run scored in four at bats.
  • Hero: Mark Prior (-.157). Prior gave the Cubs a bounce back start after the team had two clunkers. He only lasted 5⅔ innings, allowing seven hits and two walks. He did allow a two-run homer, but both runs were unearned.
  • Sidekick: Mike Remlinger (.145). Mike recorded the last two outs in the seventh, both on strike outs, with a single sandwiched between them. He then recorded the first out in the eighth.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Bellhorn (-.099). Mark was hitless in three at bats and struck out once.
  • Goat: David Kelton (-.072). Kelton was hitless in three at bats, striking out twice.
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.051). Alex was hitless in four at bats with one strikeout.

Game 67, June 15: Cubs 4 at Blue Jays 5 (37-30)

Mark Guthrie pitched in 10 games that June. He only totaled six innings of work as he had five different appearances where he recorded one or no outs. He allowed 10 hits and two walk. He only allowed one run, that one coming on a solo homer. The net result? A 1.50 ERA, but a 5.53 FIP. He was tagged with one loss in the month, and it was on this day.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Troy O’Leary (.326). Troy had a big game in this one, highlighted by a sixth inning grand glam to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead. He also had another hit besides.
  • Hero: Antonio Alfonseca (.211). Alfonseca threw scoreless seventh and eighth innings. He allowed one hit and struck out two.
  • Sidekick: Ramon Martinez (.058). He didn’t figure into the scoring, but Ramon started at short and had two hits in four at bats. The Cubs managed only eight hits on the day.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.226). Mark was hitless in five at bats and struck out twice.
  • Goat: Mark Guthrie (-.192). The good news? He worked a perfect ninth. The bad? The first batter he faced in the tenth was future two-time Cub Reed Johnson who hit a walk-off homer.
  • Kid: Shawn Estes (-.173). Shawn threw six innings and allowed seven hits, six walks and four runs. Shawn Estes allowed the 15th most runs in baseball that season. Of the 14 guys who allowed more, 12 of them threw 25 or more innings more than Shawn did. He allowed one more run than Greg Maddux, who threw 65 more innings.

So there you have it. Another six games in the books with a split. After a 4-2 start to interleague play, the Cubs dropped to 7-5. As luck would have it, despite splitting the six games, the Cubs actually added two games in the standings. They moved into a tie in Baltimore and then took a one game lead despite dropping two of three in Toronto.

Next time, we’ll follow the team to Cincinnati for four games to conclude the trip. With Clement, Zambrano, Wood and Prior going in the four games, the Cubs had to feel good going to face a Reds team that was scuffling along in fourth place at 34-33.

Until then, thanks for reading, thanks for commenting.