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Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: 2003, part 13

Six games at home against local rivals.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When last we checked in on the Cubs, they were wrapping up a 10-game, three-city road trip. They finished that trip 5-5. That left them at 39-32, in first place, one game ahead of the Cardinals and 1½2 games ahead of the Astros in a jumbled National League Central.

The Cubs return home where since May 1, they were an even 10-10 in 20 games on two homestands. Splitting games at home isn’t good enough for a team with its sites on a division title. When you reach mid-June in first place, you are no longer thinking like a team that lost 95 games the year before and just being happy to be competitive. There is an opportunity and the Cubs needed to play better at home if they were going to get there.

The Cubs would be facing the White Sox, who at that time were just 33-39, and the Brewers who would come to town 15 games under .500 and 10½ games out of first. So this looked like an opportunity. Of course, the Cubs returned home having played 10 games in 10 days in three cities and would have to play three more against the White Sox to bring the totals to 13 games, 13 days, four cities. And of course, the White Sox pretty much always play their cross-town foes like the games were playoff games.

Game 72, June 20: Cubs 3, White Sox 12 (39-33)

Shawn Estes made 281 starts in his major league career. His start on June 20 was tied for the second shortest start of his career. He lasted just one inning. He walked four batters, allowed two hits, including a grand slam to a guy I barely remember, Miguel Olivo. To put this in perspective, he only had two relief appearances in his career. One of them was longer than this start.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Damian Miller (.014). Miller had one hit in two at bats. The Cubs did manage 10 hits in this one.
  • Hero: Ramon Martinez (.012). Ramon had one hit in four at bats.
  • Sidekick: Alex Gonzalez (.008). Alex actually had a solo homer off of White Sox starter Jon Garland. It was his only hit in three at bats.
  • Billy Goat: Shawn Estes (-.403). Six runs allowed in the top of the first and this one was over right away.
  • Goat: Todd Wellemeyer (-.068). Todd certainyl didn’t help matters by allowing five more runs in four innings of work. He walked five and allowed six hits. He did strike out four and kept the ball in the park.
  • Kid: Corey Patterson (-.018). Corey had a walk and a run scored in four plate appearances.

Game 73, June 21: Cubs 6, White Sox 7 (39-34)

Matt Clement’s start the next day wasn’t massively better. A day after Estes lasted just one inning, Matt lasted 3⅓. It was his third shortest outing of the year and second worst by game score. One bad outing can really spoil the whole month. Matt was actually 3-1 over five starts in June. He turned in 30 innings of work. But he logged a 4.80 ERA (3.23 FIP). He did strike out 8.4/9. But a BABIP of .374 and an 11.1% HR/FB inflated his numbers.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Mark Grudzielanek (.116). Mark had two doubles, an RBI, and two runs scored in five at bats.
  • Hero: Lenny Harris (.079). Harris had a pinch hit single in the eighth inning to give the Cubs first and second with one out. But, the runners were stranded right there.
  • Sidekick: Eric Karros (.065). Eric had a four-hit game go to waste in the loss. They were all singles.
  • Billy Goat: Matt Clement (-.356). In his 3⅓ innings of work, Matt allowed 11 hits, three walks and seven earned runs. He struck out three.
  • Goat: Tom Goodwin (-.165). Tom pinch ran for Sammy Sosa in the ninth inning. Sammy had singled in a run to cut the deficit to 7-6. With Moises Alou at the plate, Goodwin was caught stealing. You don’t often see pinch runners for guys who logged over 230 stolen bases in their career. However, only three of those came after 2000 (he played until 2007).
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.144). Gonzalez was hitless in three at bats before leaving for a pinch hitter.

Game 74, June 22: Cubs 2, White Sox 1 (40-34)

The Cubs finally broke through for a win against the Sox in this one. Two things lead the way. The first was a strong outing from Carlos Zambrano. The second was timely hitting. With the Cubs trailing 1-0 in the eighth inning and facing a sweep, Mark Grudzielanek singled off of Damaso Marte. Marte was fantastic out of the Sox pen that year, with a 1.58 ERA over 71 games and 79⅔ innings of work. On this day though, the Cubs got to him. Following the Grudzielanek single, Ramon Martinez doubled, scoring the run all of the way from first. Marinez advanced to third on the throw. In all, the WPA swing on that play was .425. Corey Patterson followed with a single and the Cubs went on to win 2-1.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Ramon Martinez (.486). Ramon had two hits, a walk, the game tying RBI and the game winning run in his four plate appearances.
  • Hero: Carlos Zambrano (.289). Carlos saved the bullpen after two horrid starts in a row. He went eight innings and allowed six hits, five walks and one run. He struck out five.
  • Sidekick: Joe Borowski (.165). Joe had a perfect ninth for the save.
  • Billy Goat: Damian Miller (-.263). Miller was hitless in three at bats. Included in those at bats were an infield pop up with runners on first and second and two outs in the second and a double play with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh.
  • Goat: Moises Alou (-.163). Moises was hitless in four at bats and grounded into a double play to end what might have been an even bigger rally in the eighth.
  • Kid: Troy O’Leary (-.064). O’Leary pinch hit leading off the eighth and was retired.

Game 75, June 24: Cubs 9, Brewers 1 (41-34)

Corey Patterson had 113 plate appearance in June 2003. He had 28 hits, five doubles, four triples, and two homers. He scored 14 runs while driving in 13. He stole six bases without being caught. This was good for a line of .269/.319/.452 (wRC+95). Not world beater numbers, but the signs of a very productive, every day center fielder were visible.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Corey Patterson (.165). Corey had just one hit in four at bats on the day, a two-run homer in the bottom of the first after Kerry Wood had allowed a solo homer in the top of the inning.
  • Hero: Sammy Sosa (.140). Sammy reached base all four times he came to the plate. Two of those times on base came by way of the long ball as the Cubs hit six total home runs.
  • Sidekick: Kerry Wood (.130). Wood allowed that solo homer in the first, but then settled down and threw seven innings. He allowed only one run on eight hits and a walk. He struck out eight. He also hit a solo homer of his own in the game.
  • Billy Goat: Alex Gonzalez (-.074). Alex had just one hit in five at bats. But it was also a solo homer.
  • Goat: Paul Bako (-.002). Paul had one hit in two at bats.
  • Kid: Bobby Hill (.000). I broke a three-way tie with this one. Antonio Alfonseca threw a perfect ninth inning. Troy O’Leary had a walk in his only plate appearance. Bobby was retired in his only at bat. That one stood out as the only one that was even a little negative. None impacted the game.

Game 76, June 25: Cubs 6, Brewers 12 (41-35)

Todd Wellemeyer was drafted by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2000 amateur draft. He reached the majors for the first time in 2003 with the Cubs. While his career was largely unremarkable, he did pitch parts of eight seasons in the majors. He pitched for five different teams, with the largest body of work being in St. Louis. He pitched in 208 career games, logging 614⅔ innings. He had a career ERA of 4.83 ERA (5.03 FIP).

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Moises Alou (.270). Alou had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances. He drove in the first run of the game with a fourth inning single. He later hit a two-run homer to give the Cubs a 5-1 lead. He scored twice.
  • Hero: Shawn Estes (.258). My mental warning went off and said “oh, another Estes start and the Cubs allowed 12 runs. Of course.” But in this instance, that’s unfair. Shawn was quite good in this one. He threw six innings, allowing five hits, four walks, an unearned run and struck out six.
  • Sidekick: Joe Borowski (.165). Joe recorded the final out of the eighth inning with the score tied at six. He then pitched a perfect ninth to preserve the tie.
  • Billy Goat: Todd Wellemeyer (-.497). The eighth worst WPA game of the 2003 Cubs season. Todd pitched the 10th inning. He was greeted by a Brooks Kieschnick home run. That was followed by a single, a walk, and then a three-run homer by Geoff Jenkins. He retired the next two batters but then a walk and a triple and error followed.
  • Goat: Mark Guthrie (-.247). Guthrie entered a 5-5 game in the eighth inning. Eric Young had bunted for a hit off of Antonio Alfonseca. He stole second and then Guthrie came in. He promptly threw a wild pitch and then allowed a single to Geoff Jenkins who drove in four in this one.
  • Kid: Antonio Alfonseca (-.183). Antonio entered a 5-2 game with one out and runners on second and third in the seventh. He hit a batter, then allowed two singles and a fielder’s choice, producing three runs. Then he allowed that Young single in the eighth. He was charged with two runs.

Game 77, June 26: Cubs 3, Brewers 5 (41-36)

The day before, Cubs relievers combined for 12 runs (10 earned) in four innings of work. Borowski was the only reliever not involved in any of the carnage. Mark Prior was just what the doctor ordered, throwing eight innings the next day, handing Borowski a 3-2 lead. Joe followed Todd Wellemeyer’s eighth worst WPA game of the year with the worst WPA game of the year. Joe threw one inning. He allowed a lead off single, a stolen base, and a walk to start the inning. That brought Geoff Jenkins to the plate and for the second straight day, he hit a three-run homer.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Mark Prior (.382). Mark was dominant on this day. He threw eight innings, facing only 27 batters. He struck out a career-high 16 of them (matched once). He allowed four hits and one walk. The only blemish on his day was a two-run homer allowed in the sixth.
  • Hero: Mark Grudzielanek (.087). Grudzy had two hits and two walks in five plate appearances. He scored one run.
  • Sidekick: Eric Karros (.078). Karros had one hit in four at bats.
  • Billy Goat: Joe Borowski (-.741). Two hits, one walk, three runs, one strikeout.
  • Goat: Paul Bako (-.077). Hitless in three at bats.
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.068). Gonzalez was hitless in four at bats. He did have an RBI ground out.

Another opportunity to gain ground slips away. The Cubs got bombed in their first game to start the homestand. Another clunker start the next day put the Cubs in too big of a hole to come from behind in that one. After winning a close one to salvage one game against the Sox, the Cubs did win back to back games with the first game of the Brewers series behind six long balls. Then the bullpen let the Cubs down in back to back games. The first day, the Cubs blew a 5-1 lead after six innings (and a 6-5 lead after eight) on Saturday and blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth on Sunday.

So, the Cubs were left with just two wins in a six game homestand against two teams who weren’t exactly world beaters. When the homestand started, the Cubs were in first by a single game. The consecutive losses to start the homestand knocked the Cubs out of first (by half a game) but the back to back wins put them back in first (up by one game). Then the back to back losses to close things out left them tied for first.

Up next, the Cubs head out for seven games. The first three of those were on the South Side of Chicago with a rematch against the White Sox. Then the Cubs would head on to Philadelphia for four games with the Phillies.

We’ll look at that road trip next time as the Cubs cross the halfway mark of the season. Until then, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.