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Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats: 2003, part 21

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The Cubs look to stay hot as they come home for seven

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When last we checked in on the 2003 Cubs, they had won four of six on a West Coast trip. It was an odd four of six with a sweep of the Padres and then dropping two of three to the Dodgers. The Cubs hadn’t lost a series since getting swept in a two game series in Chicago on July 23 and 24, over two weeks earlier. Still, the Cubs had won 10 of 15 in that time and had moved back to four games over .500.

But the first place Astros were proving to be a tough opponent to chase down. Despite the Cubs winning a series from them in Houston towards the end of July, the Cubs found themselves heading into a four game set in Chicago against the Astros with a 2½-game deficit in the division. The pesky Cardinals were hanging around too and so the Cubs were actually still in third place.

So, the Cubs came home for four games against the first place Astros and then three against the Dodgers who’d just taken two of three from them. In the two installments of this series this week, we’ll talk about the final seven games of the year against the Astros. As the team chasing, the Cubs would need to at minimum win four of these seven games. Even at that, they’d still need to gain 1½ games in the standings from the Astros without the ability to directly affect them. Let’s get right to the action and see if they took care of business at home.

Game 117, August 11: Cubs 1, Astros 3 (60-57)

The Cubs got a strong start out of Kerry Wood, but the Cubs bats could do little with Wade Miller, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner. Augie Ojeda got the start at short in this one. Augie had been a 13th round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in 1996. He first reached the majors though with the Cubs in 2000 at the age of 26. He played parts of four seasons for the Cubs. His major league career spanned 11 seasons, though he had two seasons in the middle where he didn’t get back to the majors at all. He had four seasons with the Diamondbacks to end his career and he actually had more playing time there than he had for the Cubs. Still, in all Augie played in 502 games, had 1,237 plate appearances and a career line of .234/.320/.313 (wRC+ 65).

I can only gather that Augie was some combination of a really nice guy and having some friends in the Cubs organization. After leaving the Cubs following the 2003 Cubs season, he played for the Iowa Cubs in 2006 and 2011. As subpar a shortstop as Alex Gonalez was, knowing that Ojeda was the Cubs Triple-A option at short didn’t put any pressure on the position.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Kerry Wood (.100). Kerry threw seven innings and allowed seven hits, two walks and two runs. He struck out nine.
  • Hero: Aramis Ramirez (.067). Ramirez had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. He struck out once.
  • Sidekick: Mark Guthrie (.004). Mark retired the final batter in the ninth inning. Preserving the 3-1 deficit for one last chance in the bottom of the inning.
  • Billy Goat: Augie Ojeda (-.154). Ojeda was hitless in three at bats with a strikeout. He lands here largely for poping out in the sixth with runners on first and second and two outs.
  • Goat: Moises Alou (-.109). Moises had one hit in four at bats.
  • Sidekick: Doug Glanville (-.087). Glanville got a start in center and had one hit in five at bats.

Game 118, August 12: Cubs 6, Astros 0 (61-57)

Carlos Zambrano went the distance in this one. He allowed five hits and two walks while striking out 10. Carlos completed 11 games in his career and three of them were in the last two months of the 2003 season. He had five shutouts. The five hits was the most he ever allowed in a shutout. He shutout the Astros three times in his career, including his 2008 no-hitter against them.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Carlos Zambrano (.461). He also had one hit in four at bats in the game.
  • Hero: Kenny Lofton (.086). Kenny had three hits, including a double, in four at bats. He scored one run.
  • Sidekick: Alex Gonzalez (.082). Alex had just one hit in this one, but it left the yard. He also had a successful sacrifice. Without doing any looking, I’m betting it isn’t a very common occurrence to homer and sacrifice bunt in the same game.
  • Billy Goat: Sammy Sosa (-.041). Didn’t take much to land here in this one. Sammy had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances.
  • Goat: Augie Ojeda (-.025). Augie started at second in this one to give Ramon Martinez a day off. Ojeda had one walk in four plate appearances.
  • Kid: Hee-Seop Choi (-.018). Choi started at first and had just one walk in three plate appearances. (The Cubs drew three walks by three different players and they ended up on the three negative podiums.)

Game 119, August 13: Cubs 6, Astros 4 (62-57)

Back-to-back wins against the first place Astros. Shawn Estes started this one and was effective enough to make six runs in the first five innings by the Cubs offense hold up. The Cubs plated three in the second and three more in the fifth. Three Cubs had two hit games to power the offense and the Cubs used five relievers (which was still a bit of an oddity in a nine inning game in 2003).

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Moises Alou (.381). Moises had two hits in four at bats and scored both times. But, he lands here because his fifth inning three-run homer with one out turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead.
  • Hero: Aramis Ramirez (.155). Ramirez had two doubles in four at bats. He drove in one run and scored another.
  • Sidekick: Damian Miller (.100). Damian had two hits, including a two-run double in the second inning, in four at bats.
  • Billy Goat: Shawn Estes (-.254). The leash was getting a little shorter for Shawn. He was pulled after 4⅓ innings allowing five hits, five walks and four runs (two earned). He struck out four.
  • Goat: Sammy Sosa (-.129). Rough day at the office for Sosa with three strikeouts in four at bats.
  • Kid: Augie Ojeda (-.077). In the lineup for a third straight day and on the negative podiums all three. He struck out once in four at bats.

Game 120, August 14: Cubs 7, Astros 1 (63-57)

The Cubs took care of business in the series. The pitching was probably good enough to sweep the series, but three out of four against the division leaders is awfully good. This time it was Matt Clement’s turn and he got the job done. The Cubs chased the Astros starter after four innings and they breezed to their third straight win.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Matt Clement (.182). Matt threw 5⅔ innings and allowed only three hits, four walks and one unearned run. He struck out eight.
  • Hero: Hee-Seop Choi (.139). Getting back to back starts, Choi made it count. He had a two-out, two-run double in the first inning to get the Cubs going. He had one hit and one walk in five plate appearances.
  • Sidekick: Alex Gonzalez (.113). Alex came a triple short of the cycle on his three hit day(in five at bats). He scored two and drove in three.
  • Billy Goat: Aramis Ramirez (-.060). Ramirez was hitless in three at bats.
  • Goat: Moises Alou (-.032). He drew two walks in four plate appearances and scored once.
  • Kid: Augie Ojeda (-.008). Ramon Martinez continued to be absent from the Cubs lineup as Ojeda continued to play second. Augie reached once via hit by pitch in four plate appearances.

Game 121, August 15: Cubs 2, Dodgers 1 (64-57)

The Cubs won their fourth straight game. In so doing, the Cubs in one move jumped from third to first, passing both the Cardinals and Astros. They did it the way they had been winning most of these games. With strong pitching. Mark Prior was once against dominant and Sammy Sosa provided just enough support for the Cubs to win.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Mark Prior (.598). The third highest WPA game of the season for the Cubs. This made three superhero appearances in the first three games off of the disabled list for Mark. He allowed seven hits, no walks and one run. He struck out five.
  • Hero: Sammy Sosa (.212). Sammy had two singles and a double in four at bats. He drove in both runs.
  • Sidekick: Alex Gonzalez (.008). Gonzalez had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. He scored once.
  • Billy Goat: Hee-Seop Choi (-.126). Choi got another start at first and was hitless in four at bats and struck out three times.
  • Goat: Moises Alou (-.058). Moises had one walk in four plate appearances.
  • Kid: Damian Miller (-.046). Miller was hitless in three at bats. He struck out twice.

Game 122, August 16: Dodgers 10, Cubs 5 (64-58)

The Cubs pitching was battered in this one. Kerry Wood lasted just 2⅔ innings and allowed five runs. Four relievers followd and three of them combined to allow five more runs. This wasted a two-homer, four-RBI game from Aramis Ramirez. Wood did have a hit and an RBI in his only at bat in this one. Alas, the Dodgers snapped the Cubs four game winning streak.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Aramis Ramirez (.364). A two-run homer in the second tied the game at 2-2 and then he added a two-run homer in the third to tie the game at 5-5. Unfortunately, that was all of the Cubs scoring.
  • Hero: Eric Karros (.038). Eric got back in the lineup and had one hit in four at bats. He struck out twice.
  • Sidekick: Dave Veres (.002). Veres was the only Cub pitcher in this one to not allow a run. He did allow two hits though. He struck out one.
  • Billy Goat: Kerry Wood (-.412). Kerry allowed five hits and four walks. One of the hits was a home run. He only struck out two.
  • Goat: Mike Remlinger (-.266). The majority of the damage was off of Remlinger who allowed four hits, a walk and three runs while only recording four outs.
  • Kid: Ramon Martinez (-.063). Ramon got back into the lineup but he was hitless in three at bats.

Game 123, August 17: Cubs 0, Dodgers 3 (64-59)

The Dodgers were a decent team in 2003, though they’d ultimately miss the playoffs. They handled the Cubs just about as well as anyone. Only the Phillies (5-1) had a better winning percentage against the Cubs in 2003. In this one, Hideo Nomo threw seven shutout innings for his 14th win and Eric Gagne worked the ninth for what was already his 41st save of the year.

Three Heroes/Three Goats:

  • Superhero: Carlos Zambrano (.080). Carlos was pretty effective in this one too, allowing five hits and three walks over seven innings. He allowed two runs and struck out five.
  • Hero: Troy O’Leary (.047). Troy came off of the bench and drew a walk. That was good enough for the second spot.
  • Sidekick: Kyle Farnsworth (.034). Farnsworth threw 1⅔ innings and allowed only one walk while striking out two.
  • Billy Goat: Kenny Lofton (-.169). Kenny had one hit in four at bats. He lands here because he batted with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh inning. The Cubs were trailing 2-0. He grounded into a fielder’s choice (-.073) and then was caught stealing (-.084).
  • Goat: Sammy Sosa (-.114). Sosa was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
  • Kid: Ramon Martinez (-.096). Ramon had one hit and one strikeout in four at bats.

The Cubs took four of seven on the homestand. With three of those wins coming against the first place Astros, the Cubs were able to briefly move back into first. The back to back losses to the Dodgers at the end of the homestand did drop them back into second, just half a game out of first.

The theme continued to be strong pitching and just enough hitting to get the job done. With just 39 games left on the schedule, the Cubs were firmly in the division hunt. The Astros remained the team to beat and the Cardinals were still hanging around. This division was promising to go down to the very end.

If the Cubs were going to be one of those teams at the very end, they were facing a daunting task. A nine game road trip awaited following the Dodgers series. The Cubs would have a day off and then they head to Houston for their final three games of the year with the Astros. Then they’d fly to Arizona for three and then back to St. Louis for three with the Cardinals. The Diamondbacks were no pushover team at that time either as they’d go on to win 84 games. Three series against three above average teams, two of them being division rivals involved in a close division race. It would be a daunting trip indeed.

After the long road trip, the Cubs would have just two trips left, one six game and one seven game. They would have no more travel west. So the remaining schedule wasn’t too back breaking. But the team needed to stay near first place if they were going to have a chance. Next time, we’ll cover that road trip.

Until then, thanks for reading.