First Star – Kerry Wood (.167)
Second Star – Rich Hill (.156)
Third Star – Jason Bay (.106)
Play of the Game – Fukudome’s triple in the 4th (+.120)


The big story before this game would be the return of Rich Hill to the Cubs rotation after not pitching in eight days. Hill, who has always been a pitcher with good control, faltered with erratic pitching throughout the entirety of Spring Training and into the early season. Hill entered this game with 7 walks in 9 innings pitched. Last start Len Kasper stated that there was a rumor that Rich Hill heard a story about the struggles that another pitcher was having with control and that those stories might be playing with his mind. Again, if this it true we need help.

Also notable before the game was that Eric Patterson would lead off for the Cubs and play second base. This change at the top of the order was somewhat understandable in that Mike Fontenot stranded seven guys on base yesterday. I don’t understand why Patterson is the next choice and I would like to ask you about this later. Recently I have heard about how the eight hole is the hardest place to hit in the lineup- especially in relation to Pie’s struggles.

The Pitching

Rich Hill was not amazing but he was good. This is a good step to recovery for him. It looked real bad when the game started with a four pitch walk to Pirates lead off guy Nate McLouth (Who got thrown out stealing only once in high school, and has never been caught stealing in the majors). Hill was battling early and he looked like he was going to have a mental breakdown. Hill could only get his curve ball over early on but he was helped by a McLouth pick off.

Hill gave up a run in the second when Xavier Nady drove a curve ball into the outfield driving in Jason Bay. The fact that the curve was the go to pitch hurt Hill in this situation but he got better as the day went on. Hill was pulled in the fifth leading 3-1. This was another good move by Lou to try to give Hill the chance for a win, which he got. Hill’s final line: 5ip, (only) 3h, 1er, 3bb, 4k, 82 pitches only 46 for strikes. He struggled but he won…and only gave up one run.

The bullpen was good. At times real good. Lieber got two outs in the sixth after the weird inning and poor performance of yesterday. Marshall got the final out in the sixth. Marmol pitched the seventh and eighth. He gave up a solo home run to McLouth in the eighth. He also had five strikeouts.

Kerry Wood threw a six pitch 1-2-3 ninth inning to get the save.

The Bats

The Cubs really had a bad day at the plate except for the fourth inning. They stranded a lot of guys and missed out on good scoring chances throughout the game. In the first they got runners at the corners with two out and Fukudome could not come through. In the second DeRosa led off with a double but did not move from there. In the third Theriot tripled with one out and did not score. (It reminded me of all of the missed opportunities of yesterday’s game.) They scored all the runs they would score, and fortunately would need, in the fourth. Fukudome leads off with a triple. DeRosa singles him in. Soto doubles and DeRo goes to third. Johnson singles scoring DeRo. Patterson grounds out and Soto scores. 3-1. DeRosa and Johnson were both 2 for 4 today and were on every at bat yesterday. Maybe they could be moved up in the lineup?

Johnson also made a back to the field running catch which was a clear confidence boost to Hill on the mound.

Here was a stunning statistic: The Cubs lead the majors in pitches/ab with 3.96. This has a lot to do with Fukudome who is at 4.63. But I also must say that I think Soriano was taking more pitches this year as well.

Side notes:

Yesterday there was the Henry Blanco bunting fiasco. Henry missed a sign but the bad part was that Mike Quade, third base coach, said “Next time I will walk down and talk to the batter.” Quade should have realized that Blanco missed the sign on strike 2 but did not talk to him about it and allowed him to strike out on a foul bunt. How could you not walk up and tell him? Pathetic. Worst third base coach in baseball…unless Wavin’ Wendell is still around.

I was at the game yesterday and I saw firsthand that the redone field is gorgeous. It also looks a ton safer. No hills around.

I wanted your input…

Who should be leading off and batting second?

I would propose: Johnson, DeRosa, Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome, Soto, Theriot, Fontenot, Pitcher. What do you propose?

Meltdowns

Seeing Hill almost meltdown again today it reminded me of when Rick Ankiel went nuts and could not get the ball to the catcher. And the worst one I remember was (I think) Chuck Knoblauch who went through a phase when he could not throw the ball from second to first with the Yankees. Do you remember any meltdowns?

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