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Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: 2003, part 14

The Cubs head out for a seven-game road trip.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We turn our attention back to 2003. When last we checked in on the Cubs, they had lost four of six on a disappointing homestand. That dropped them to 41-36 and into a first place tie.

This stretch of games for the Cubs was a bit of a grueling one. They had a day off before the Brewers series on the previous homestand. That day off followed a string of 14 straight games, played in four different cities (and two different countries). After that one off day, they had 20 straight games leading into the All-Star break. In all, 34 games in 35 days. To be fair, in that stretch 16 of them were at home and three more were played in Chicago. But we all saw just last year how a stretch like that could really take the wind out of the sails of a team.

A stretch of games like that affects the normal rest patterns of a team as well as bullpen usage. Of course, as the bullpen gets worn down, you might lean on your starting pitchers a little harder. But the Cubs were still hanging in there, tied for first place. At this point, they were 17 games into the 34-game stretch. With that lead-in, let’s jump right into the games and see how the Cubs fared as they headed out on the road.

Game 78, June 27: Cubs 3 at White Sox 4 (41-37)

After back to back losses at the expense of the Cubs bullpen, they were looking for a bounce back. This was a match-up of Dan Wright and Matt Clement. It was a good one too. The Cubs got a solo homer from Alex Gonzalez in the top of the first. They took a 1-0 lead to the seventh inning when Frank Thomas tied the game with a solo shot of his own. An inning later, Carlos Lee went deep to give the Sox a 2-1 lead. They would add a run in the eighth inning when Antonio Alfonseca allowed an inherited runner to score. But the Cubs would add two runs in the ninth to tie the game. Alfonseca would head back out for the ninth. He struck out Lee but then Jose Valentin tagged him for a walk-off homer.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Mark Grudzielanek (.303). Mark had four hits in five at bats. This was the second of two four hit games for him on the season. They were all singles. He scored one run.
  • Hero: Alex Gonzalez (.277). He had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. The hit was that first inning solo home run.
  • Sidekick: Matt Clement (.097). Matt threw 7⅔ innings allowing five hits, including two home runs, and two walks. He was charged with three runs. I have to wonder if Matt should have been back out for that eighth inning.
  • Billy Goat: Antonio Alfonseca (-.406). Alfonseca recorded two outs. But he allowed two hits that lead to an inherited runner and the game winner scoring.
  • Goat: Sammy Sosa (-.369). Sammy did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the ninth to cut the deficit to 3-2. But that event had a -.117 WPA effect. He also struck out in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and only one out (-.120).
  • Kid: Eric Karros (-.215). Karros was hitless in five plate appearances. He did have one walk. He popped out to end the ninth with two on (-.122).

Game 79, June 28: Cubs 6 at White Sox 7 (41-38)

By 2003, sports radio was already in full swing, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like on this day in the social media era. The Cubs lost this one. This was their fourth straight loss. And, this was the fourth straight loss in which the other team scored the winning run in their final at bat. The Cubs lead this one 6-4 heading to the bottom of the eighth, but they allowed two in the eighth and one in the ninth. With the four straight losses, the Cubs fell out of first place. It had to feel like the season was melting down. That the coach was turning back into a pumpkin and that this had been some kind of mirage. No one could be trusted out of the pen as a new reliever was victimized (as well as a repeat offender).

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Eric Karros (.248). Eric had a hit and a walk in five plate appearances. The walk was a two-out, first-inning bases-loaded walk that gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. The hit was a fifth-inning, two-out, two-run single.
  • Hero: Troy O’Leary (.125). O’Leary had two hits and he drove in two runs in four at bats.
  • Sidekick: Mark Guthrie (.088). Mark retired the only batter he faced.
  • Billy Goat: Antonio Alfonseca (-.315). Alfonseca pitched the eighth inning. He retired the first batter but then he issued a walk. He bounced back with a fielder’s choice grounder. But then after a stolen base, Aaron Rowand hit a two-out, two-run, game-tying homer. Antonio then retired Frank Thomas to escape with a 6-6 tie.
  • Goat: Mike Remlinger (-.291). Mike was summoned after Juan Cruz issued a walk and then a fly out that put the winning run at second with no outs. He struck the first batter he faced out. An intentional walk was issued and D’Angelo Jimenez followed with the game-winning RBI single.
  • Kid: Ramon Martinez (-.141). Martinez had one hit in four at bats. Included was a fourth inning double play grounder after a lead off single.

Game 80, June 29: Cubs 5 at White Sox 2 (42-38)

Kerry Wood road to the Cubs rescue. With the Cubs heading to Sunday for the second week end in a row trying to win a single game in the series, he threw eight innings allowing only two runs. Moises Alou was the offensive hero with a two-run homer. Joe Borowski and Mike Remlinger combined on a scoreless ninth to snap the four-game skid.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Kerry Wood (.277). He allowed four hits, six walks and two runs. He allowed a home run and struck out seven.
  • Hero: Tom Goodwin (.175). Tom had two hits, including an RBI single, in four at bats.
  • Sidekick: Moises Alou (.142). Alou had just one hit on the day, but it was a two-run homer and gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
  • Billy Goat: Damian Miller (-.080). Damian was hitless in four at bats with one strikeout.
  • Goat: Corey Patterson (-.046). He drove in a run with a fielder’s choice ground out in the fifth. He was hitless in four at bats.
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.030). Alex had one hit in five at bats.

Game 81, June 30: Cubs 3 at Phillies 4 (42-39)

This game had to feel like Shawn Estes had turned back the clock. The game was scoreless into the third inning when Estes helped his own cause with a solo homer. An inning later, the Cubs plated two runs to build a 3-0 lead. The Phillies responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning, but Estes struck out his counterpart with two on to end the rally and preserve a 3-2 lead. The game would remain right there until the seventh inning. Estes having allowed five hits, four walks and two runs went back out to work the seventh. He struck out the first batter he faced and retired the second. But then a single and a Jim Thome homer (-.458 WPA) gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead and eventual win.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Corey Patterson (.116). Corey had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. He scored one run.
  • Hero: Tom Goodwin (.087). Tom lead off the eighth with a pinch-hit single.
  • Sidekick: Hee-Seop Choi (.034). Choi was the beneficiary of Estes (.103) hitting WPA being dropped. Choi had one hit in four at bats.
  • Billy Goat: Moises Alou (-.238). Moises was hitless in four at bats. He lands here largely because he grounded into a double play with one out to end the sixth.
  • Goat: Shawn Estes (-.222). The final line was seven innings, seven hits, four walks, four runs, seven strikeouts. And of course, one loss.
  • Sidekick: Troy O’Leary (-.140). Troy pinch hit with runners on first and second and two outs in the ninth and grounded out to end the game.

Game 82, July 1: Cubs 3 at Phillies 4 (42-40)

For the fifth time in seven games, the Cubs lose in their final at bat. The gruesome streak drops the team to just two over .500. Fortunately, some divisional ineptitude still had the Cubs just a game out of first. Once again Antonio Alfonseca was the man on the mound when the game ended. Of course, he came into a bases loaded and two outs jam.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Kyle Farnsworth (.154). Kyle faced three batters, spanning the last out of the seventh (with two outs and runners first and second) and the first two outs of the eighth. He struck out two of the three batters he faced.
  • Hero: Alex Gonzalez (.152). Gonzalez had a three hit game that included a solo home run.
  • Sidekick: Eric Karros (.150). Eric helped propel the offense with three hits and a run as well.
  • Billy Goat: Antonio Alfonseca (-.342). Faced only the one batter and allowed a walk-off single.
  • Goat: Moises Alou (-.207). Alou was hitless in four at bats. Once again, the double play lands him here. This time it was following a lead-off single by Sammy Sosa in the eighth.
  • Kid: Damian Miller (-.161). Damian was hitless in four at bats.

Game 83, July 2: Cubs 1 at Phillies 0 (43-40)

Dusty Baker let Matt Clement throw seven or more innings in half of his 32 starts. Matt’s record in those games? 10-1. In this one, he held the Phillies to one hit in seven innings. By game score, Fangraphs has this as the sixth best outing of the year for Matt. This was the only of his 10 best outings by game score in which he wasn’t the winning pitcher. That’s all because this game went to the ninth inning scoreless. This time, it was the Cubs scoring the winning run in their last time at bat.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Matt Clement (.441). Seven innings, one hit, six walks and five strikeouts.
  • Hero: Sammy Sosa (.223). Just one hit in four at bats. He struck out the other three. Of course the one hit was a ninth inning solo homer.
  • Sidekick: Joe Borowski (.198). Finally, the bullpen nailed one down. Joe threw a perfect ninth, striking out two to preserve the win.
  • Billy Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.150). Mark was hitless in four at bats and struck out once.
  • Goat: Corey Patterson (-.096). Corey had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. He stole a base and was caught stealing.
  • Kid: Troy O’Leary (-.092). Troy was hitless in four at bats with a strike out.

Game 84, July 3: Cubs 2 at Phillies 12 (43-41)

Carlos Zambrano made six starts in July. He was 3-2 in those six starts with a 3.86 ERA (3.28 FIP) in 39⅔ innings of work. He allowed 20 runs in that time (17 earned) and 12 of them came in just two starts. One of them was this game in Philadelphia. On this day, he did last six innings, but he allowed eight hits, two walks and five runs. He only struck out three.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Damian Miller (.223). Miller had two hits and a walk in four at bats. Included was a two-run homer with two outs in the second that gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
  • Hero: Jose Hernandez (.022). Jose had two hits in four at bats and was along for the ride on the Miller homer.
  • Sidekick: Hee-Seop Choi (.017). Choi for the second time on this trip moves into the Sidekick spot after a pitcher was moved out (Zambrano had a hit in two at bats). Choi had one hit in four at bats.
  • Billy Goat: Carlos Zambrano (-.325). Carlos allowed five or more earned runs six times in 2003. This won’t even be his worst outing of the month...
  • Goat: Mark Grudzielanek (-.170). Mark had one walk in five plate appearances. He hit into a double play with runners on first and third in the fifth inning while the game was still 2-2. On this day, he lead off.
  • Kid: Alex Gonzalez (-.095). Alex had one hit in four at bats. Grudzy and Gonzalez batted first and second.

So there it is. Seven more games in the books. The Cubs lost five of seven. They lost four of six on the previous homestand. They finished the road trip before that dropping two of the final three. In all, that is a 5-10 stretch. The damage? They started that stretch 1½ games in first place and finished it a game out. Not bad actually. Though they had actually managed to fall to third place.

Next up? The team comes home for 10 straight games to finish off the pre-All-Star game schedule. The opposition would be the Cardinals, Marlins and Braves (four games). Suddenly this homestand looked like it was an important one to a team looking to stay in the race.

Tune in next time to see if the Cubs could stop the bleeding. Until then, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.