Welcome back to Historical Cubs Heroes and Goats. All off season long we’ve been taking a look back at the 2003 Cubs. The 2003 team, similar to the 1984 team, got within one win of the Cubs first World Series trip since 1945. As you all know, the 2003 team got within a few outs of making it there. We don’t want to dwell too heavily on the pain. Instead, we are looking back at how that team came together.
As with most things, objects in the rear view mirror can change over time. I don’t know if all of you are like me, but I keenly remember the heartbreak of 2003. But I didn’t remember the reality of that team and what the regular season was like. These last few weeks we’ve been taking a look at the last month and a half leading into the All-Star break and today we’ll have those final four games. The Cubs started the homestand with a split of their first six games. Winning two of three from the Marlins heading into the Braves series to close out the first half schedule. That was the first series win since June 10-12 in Baltimore. Let’s see if they could keep the momentum going.
Game 91, July 10: Cubs 3, Braves 13 (46-45)
The next verse, same as the first. This was one of seven games in 2003 that Shawn Estes allowed six or more runs (in 28 starts). He allowed five runs six times. So in 13 of the 28 starts, he allowed five or more runs. The mind blowing thing is that A) Shawn got 28 starts and B) he got 152⅓ innings of work (over 5⅓ innings per start). Many of the games were like this one. It wasn’t that Shawn was good for four or five innings and then the wheels fell off in the sixth. He allowed a solo homer leading off the game. He allowed a Vinny Castilla RBI double in the second. After the Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the third, he allowed a solo homer to Castilla leading off the fifth. He then allowed three runs in the sixth including an RBI single by Castilla. On the other side, Greg Maddux allowed three runs, two earned, in six innings of work.
Three Heroes/Three Goats:
- Superhero: Tom Goodwin (.086). Tom had a good day with three hits, including a double, a run, an RBI, and a stolen base (and a caught stealing) in five at bats.
- Hero: Sammy Sosa (.050). Sosa had two hits and an RBI in four at bats.
- Sidekick: Dave Veres (.014). Dave recorded five outs while allowing one hit and one walk. He struck out one.
- Billy Goat: Shawn Estes (-.399). Before finally being lifted with one out in the sixth, Shawn allowed six hits, two home runs, three walks and six earned runs. He struck out five.
- Goat: Jose Hernandez (-.067). Jose was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
- Kid: Kyle Farnsworth (-.060). Any remaining hope of a Cubs comeback was extinguished when Kyle allowed two hits, two walks and three runs in just 1⁄3 of an inning.
Game 92, July 11: Cubs 5, Braves 9 (46-46)
A Mark Prior start didn’t turn things around for the Cubs. Mark was hit hard on this day. He also featured a line that included six hits, two home runs, three walks and six earned runs. He also struck out five. The only difference between his line and the one Estes had the day before was that Prior did it in just 4⅓ innings. The 2003 Cubs were far from an offensive juggernaut, so they were basically only as good as the starting pitching on any given day. On these two days, it was pretty bad. On the other side, Mike Hampton wasn’t great, but he did hang around for 7⅓ innings (allowing 11 hits, two homers, three walks and five runs of his own).
Three Heroes/Three Goats:
- Superhero: Sammy Sosa (.175). Sammy took Hampton deep twice on the day. He had four hits and a walk in the loss. He didn’t get a lot of support though and only scored two and drove in two.
- Hero: Eric Karros (.076). Hitting two spots behind Sammy, he had three hits and an RBI in five plate appearances.
- Sidekick: Damian Miller (.067). Miller had a good day at the plate with two hits and a walk. He scored a run and struck out once.
- Billy Goat: Mark Prior (-.319).
- Goat: Jose Hernandez (-.129). Another hitless day with two strikeouts in our at bats.
- Kid: Moises Alou (-.115). The Cubs cleanup hitter had just one hit and one strikeout in five at bats.
Game 93, July 12: Cubs 7, Braves 3 (47-46)
Like many good hitters, Sammy Sosa could really get into a groove. Despite the team’s struggles, he went into the break on an absolute tear. In the final six games heading into the break, he had six consecutive multi-hit games. In total he had 14 hits in 27 at bats including a double and five home runs. He drove in 10 runs but sadly only scored five. His line was .538/.556/1.154 (wRC+ 343) and had a .529 BABIP despite the five home runs. None of this was lost on WPA. Sammy had three Superhero appearances and two Heroes in the final five games before the break.
Three Heroes/Three Goats:
- Superhero: Sammy Sosa (.175). On this day, he had two hits, a home run, two RBI and a run scored. He struck out once.
- Hero: Matt Clement (.140). Matt gave the Cubs eight innings. He allowed five hits, one home run and three runs (two earned). He struckout seven and didn’t walk anyone.
- Sidekick: Alex Gonzalez (.139). Gonzalez had two hits, a run and an RBI in four at bats. He struck out twice.
- Billy Goat: Damian Miller (-.057). Damian had one hit in four at bats.
- Goat: Eric Karros (-.027). Karros had one walk and a run scored in four plate appearances. He struck out once.
- Kid: Ramon Martinez (-.011). Ramon had a hit and an RBI in three at bats. He had one strikeout.
Game 94, July 13: Cubs 2, Braves 7 (47-47)
Yet another bad start for the Cubs heading into the break. Carlos Zambrano threw five innings and allowed eight hits, three walks and seven runs. Meanwhile, on the other side Shane Reynolds allowed only one earned run in six innings of work. He allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out four.
Three Heroes/Three Goats:
- Superhero: Sammy Sosa (.062). Sammy had two hits and an RBI in five at bats. He struck out once.
- Hero: Tom Goodwin (.054). Goodwin had two hits and a run scored in five at bats. Tom was seeing increased playing time following Corey Patterson’s season-ending injury earlier on the homestand against the Cardinals.
- Sidekick: Troy O’Leary (.009). A pinch-hit walk in his only plate appearance was enough to land Troy on the Hero side.
- Billy Goat: Carlos Zambrano (.281).
- Goat: Moises Alou (-.115). Moises had one hit and one strikeout in four at bats.
- Kid: Mark Grudzielanek (-.030). Mark had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances. He flew out in the fifth inning with runners on first and second and no outs (-.067) and that was enough to land him here.
The Cubs didn’t head into the break looking like a future National League runner-up. They looked much more like the team that had lost 95 games the year before. On June 8, the Cubs beat the Yankees in the last game of a 12-game homestand. That increased their record to 34-27 (.557 winning percentage, a 90-win pace). They actually won the first two games of the subsequent road trip in Baltimore, after an off-day, to move to nine over .500. However, from that off day on June 9 until the All-Star break following the July 13 game, the Cubs were 13-20 (.394, 64-win pace). They won the first series in the stretch and other than that, they split just one other series over that time and lost all of the rest.
At 47-47, this team didn’t look the part of a potential champion. But things would change. a Little bit of rest and a couple of beneficial trades would flip the script yet again. Stay tuned for our next installment in this series when we’ll cover the first five games after the break, featuring three games in Florida and two more in Atlanta.
Until then, thanks for reading and as always thanks for commenting.