September 18th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
Cincinnati 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0   5 10 1
Chicago 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0   2 7 0
W – A. Harang (16-4) L – C. Zambrano (16-13) S – D. Weathers (31)
Homeruns: E. Encarnacion (14)

Box Score

Tonight was the first home start for Carlos Zambrano since the Labor Day disaster where he was booed off the field and followed up his bad start by showing up and calling out the fans. Since that start he has had two good starts at Pittsburgh and St. Louis. A major story line leading up to tonight’s game was that he would be pitching on only three days rest instead of his usual four. It would be interesting to see how he would respond. To sum it up…not too well. Whether it was from lack of rest or not, Lou Piniella said that Big Z never really looked comfortable. Maybe that is because he was facing Aaron Harang who has already beaten him four times head to head this year. (By the way, I don’t know about you, but any time Harang pitches I almost automatically chalk up a loss. I know it really is crushing to lose any game right now, but it drives me insane when we yell so much about losing games that we probably thought we were going to lose in the first place. Harang is 16-4 on the year, is second in the NL in K’s, second in innings pitched, and third in WHIP…and seems to never lose to the Cubs.)

I was at the game tonight, thanks to my wife who bought me tickets for my birthday. I was amazed at the playoff atmosphere, with fans standing and cheering for simple things like 3-2 counts and the tying run coming to the plate. It was going to be interesting to see the fans response to Zambrano’s return. During player introductions, Carlos got the loudest ovation and the fans rose to their feet and cheered loudly as he walked to the mound to begin the game. It was like a sweet reconciliation…that was until Carlos began straying again (Carlos why do you play with our emotions so much? We want to love you…we really do! But you make it so hard. We don’t really know who’s coming home to us.) In the first inning he was getting ahead of batters and unable to close the deal. Norris Hopper battled to an infield single, then Keppinger was hit by a pitch. Brandon Phillips singled in a run (By the way have you seen his numbers?) and scored on an Edgar Encarnacion single. The Cubs are down 2-0 in the first. Not good when you are facing Aaron Harang.

The Reds scored another run in the second. Carlos Zambrano didn’t give up another run until the sixth, when Encarnacion clubbed a ball into the left field stands. Carlos was almost pulled a couple times in the game, but finally was pulled in the sixth after the home run. As he left the field he was met with some half hearted applause that kind of said “I guess we’re stuck with each other.” His numbers on the day: 5.1 IP, 7H, 4ER, 3BB, 1K. Could’ve been worse. Could’ve been a lot better. One thing that was easy to notice is how many pitches Zambrano throws. It is not rare for him to be near 80 pitches in the third or fourth inning. He is a strikeout pitcher, which means he will throw a lot of pitches for that, and he leads the league in walks.

Aaron Harang was a good as usual. 7IP, 2ER, 6K, 2BB. The Cubs had a few chances to score, but only scored their two runs in the fourth on a two out, two run single by Jacque Jones. Jones also made a great catch in Center crashing into the wall- and banging the brick wall with his head- to rob Ken Griffey Jr. of an extra base hit…smiling always smiling.

Side notes:
It was amazing to see the crowd response to Kerry Wood. He entered the game in the eighth, inheriting the bases loaded from Will Oh MAN! He entered like a hero, with fans cheering and chanting. He retired his first batter on a pop up, but then walked in a run…the unforgivable sin in my book. It amazed me that he was still so popular. Would Prior get the same response?

I listen to a lot of sports radio and I laugh at the roller coaster Cubs fans ride. When they win, they are unbeatable. When they lose it seems like they might never win again. I appreciated Lou’s words about keeping the whole season in perspective.

There are ten games left for us and in a technicality we are in second place. If the Brewers win out (which they won’t) they win the division no matter what we do.

The good news is that the Mets keep losing, which is keeping the Braves at least alive in the East. So when the Brewers go to Atlanta for four games on Thursday, the Braves will still be playing for something.

Unlike the Astros who have seemingly laid down for the Brewers. I am going back and forth about how I feel about it, but the Astros have moved their veteran pitchers back to face the Cardinals who are out of it, instead of the Brewers who are in it. Houston needs to evaluate players for next year…but this is against baseball protocol. Oswalt was scheduled to start against the Brewers but his wife was being induced to have a baby instead. Conspiracy theory: didn’t Astros manager Cecil Cooper play for the Brewers? Anyway who cares about who the Astros are pitching against the Brewers? If we win we’re in.

Random Wrigley Field Notes
I am a Cub fan, but I don’t really like going to Wrigley Field… is that so bad?

Why are they still playing the Van Halen song “Jump” when the Cubs take the field? Can’t Bob Brenly come up with something better, he’s a great music lover. Len Kasper was on Boers and Bernstein the other day and said that Brenly “pitched a tent” at Grant Park during Lollapalooza this summer…Thus proving his love for music. He must know something better than Van Halen. What was Kasper’s bands name? They probably have something good.

By the way, the other day Len Kasper said that he keeps up with reading Cubs blogs. Here is a message for him… “Len. Jump in. Join the community. We all think you’re cool.”

The field is still torn up from the Police concert. The field is awful and in bad need of repair. Steve Stone said that for a couple years there was a plan in place to redo the field in the off season; to make it better for draining, taking away some of the bad hops, and resloping the dangerous incline towards the foul lines. He said that the idea was nixed by Andy MacPhail, or the Trib, because of cost. So finally this year it was approved, but can only be done if the Cubs don’t make the playoffs (timing reasons) and with approval of the new owner. I hope it gets done…next year.

Whenever I am at Wrigley I am flooded with memories of going to meaningless games at the end of another miserable year. How many times have you sat in the stands for a game that meant nothing? This is a nice change. Does it ever amaze you how bad the Cubs have been for decades? What are your memories of bad Cubdom?

Are you tiring of the guest conductor for the seventh inning stretch? (Get Kasper’s band!!!)

The most vivid memory for me as a Cub fan growing up was watching the Cubs losing an afternoon game that was going long and was going to get called because of darkness when the Cubs did not have lights. Darkness is an appropriate description for being a Cab fan back then.

On a final note, today I got some Cracker Jack. It now comes in a bag not a box, and the toy is always some paper thing that is in no way a “toy.” What happened to all things good and innocent? Please don’t blame this on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Remember Big League Chew. It is still around and still pretty much the same. How do they get away with selling something so obviously designed to look like children’s chewing tobacco to kids? Whenever I got Big League Chew growing up I could not control how much I put in my mouth. I would add and add until I had a monumental glob of gum that was choking the breath out of me.

Trivia Question:
As I was sitting at the game today something happened that I think should be box scored as UIBB. What is it? There are no prizes and it might make you uncomfortable that you think the same way that I do.

Please feel free to add your random streams of baseball consciousness in the comments section…

We will get through this.

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