Monday, May 25, 2009

Going streaking: Cubs lose 7th in a row to finish road trip from hell

Sunday: Padres 7, Cubs 2

I'm not sure if any of the Cubs hitters are musically inclined, but I'm pretty sure they'd have a better chance of producing this kind of score rather than the kind normally seen in a baseball game. After another pathetic performance Sunday, the Cubs have now been swept in back-to-back series for the first time since August of 2006 (an 0-6 road trip to St. Louis and Pittsburgh). Pitching was the problem in that stretch, as the Cubs allowed 42 runs in those six games.

It's sad to say, but the Cubs are now a .500 ball club and don't at all resemble the solid contender we all thought they'd be. They're 22nd in the majors in runs scored, 25th in batting average and 22nd in on-base percentage. And while pitching wasn't the problem on their 0-6 road trip, the Cubs are 14th in the majors in ERA, and their relievers' 5.06 ERA is good for 24th.

The Cubs' 21-21 record is worse than that of the Royals, Braves and Reds, and even the Padres are now .500 after their sweep of the Cubs. Earlier, I wrote how it was too early to get too worked up, that there was too much baseball left to panic. Well, it is still relatively early (the Cubs just passed the one-quarter mark), but it ain't that early anymore. One week from today, the calendar will flip to June, and the Cubs are going to have to rev it up soon if they want to stay in the thick of the race.

Here's some good news: on May 25, 2007 (the first year of the Cubs' back-to-back division titles), the Cubs were 21-25, six games back of the Brewers. Today, they stand at 21-21, four games back of the Brewers (thanks to the Brewers getting broomed by the Twins) and Cardinals. The bad news: in 2007, the Cubs were finding ways to lose despite clearly having potential--they had a +26 run differential on May 25, whereas the Cubs' 7-2 loss Sunday means they've now allowed more runs than they've scored this year.

If you'd like, you can take solace in that 2007 season for a while longer--the Cubs didn't climb back to .500 until they were 39-39 on June 29. But the Cubs were chasing only the Brewers that year; it doesn't look like the NL Central will be quite as forgiving this year. While it does seem like the Cubs' starting staff is going to keep them in an awful lot of games this season, the offense has to end their lumber slumber if a third straight title is going to be in the cards.

One thing the Cubs can do now is bring up Jake Fox. For Pete's sake, just get rid of David Patton if he's never going to pitch. He hasn't pitched since May 9--May 9!--and Piniella clearly has no intention of using him, ever. The Cubs are operating with a 24-man roster. Jake Fox apparently can't play defense, but given what the Cubs offense has accomplished--or rather, not accomplished--the last week, it's worth a try. Fox is batting a ridiculous .425 with 17 HR and 50 RBI in 39 games at Iowa.

Bleed Cubbie Blue would like to see Mark DeRosa brought back. Well, so would I, but that seems like a complete pipe dream (side note: DeRosa's 30 RBI would be leading the team right now). Jim Hendry would clearly be working from a position of weakness, meaning he'd probably give Cleveland more than we got for DeRo in the first place, and I'm not sure if there's a GM in any sport willing to have that much egg on his face, i.e. trading for someone just months after trading him away. But if there are any utility men being shopped by teams like the Orioles, Rockies or A's, Hendry should give them a ring ASAP.

Cubs notes

-Cubs pitchers have dropped to second in the league in strikeouts, behind Florida.

-The Cubs have just nine saves despite their 21 victories.

MLB notes

-Sunday may have been the first time I've ever seen a manager win an argument. Okay, maybe I've seen a couple times where the manager argues, the umpires get together, and a call is changed. But when Twins manager Ron Gardenhire got into the home plate umpire's face after the ump said Joe Mauer fouled a pitch as opposed to having been hit by it, I was absolutely shocked when the umpire eventually agreed with him and sent Mauer to first. It was a classic umpire-manager heated feud, and those never, ever, ever--repeat, EVER--result in a call being changed. Brewers manager Ken Macha was livid, and no doubt he was even more upset when Justin Morneau launched the very next pitch for a grand slam.

-Three players hit home runs in Sunday's Pirates-White Sox game, and it was the first home run of the season for all three of them.

-Jason Bartlett of the Rays leads the majors in batting with a .373 average.

-Both the Tigers and the Reds have recorded six shutouts already this season.

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