Cubs 6, Reds 8
What Went Right
- There are long home runs in baseball, and then there’s the home run Carlos Pena hit in the top of the first. At The Great American Ballpark, there’s a party area for fans above the batter’s eye in center field. It’s easily three full stories above the field level. Tonight, Pena deposited a ball there. The distance he hit it was so shocking that the cameramen couldn’t initially find it. Every angle I saw followed the supposed trajectory of the ball into the blacked-out wall and lawn that constitutes the batter’s eye–it took them all at least a second to realize Pena had launched one into such rare territory. Put it this way: he hit it so deep, Aramis Ramirez–who was on first base, and himself no stranger to long home runs–rounded second looking over his right shoulder in amazement.
- Starlin Castro got another hit tonight–his 193rd of the season. He’s had 54 multi-hit games (although tonight was not one of them), including 21 three-hit games. It seems now, barring injury, that it’s a question of when, not if he will get 200 hits this season. And when he does, he’ll become the youngest Cub ever to reach that mark. Say what you will–and some of you often do–about the rest of his game; his hitting prowess, especially this early in his career, puts him in elite company. Heading into what looks to be a tumultuous offseason, I’m glad he’s a Cub.
- Bryan LaHair has a nine-game hitting streak going, which might not be terribly impressive until you factor in that his only plate appearances this season have come in those nine games. I know almost anyone can play well in garbage time, but so far LaHair is making the most of his opportunity. Now if we could just get him some regular time at first base, we might get a sense of what he’s capable of.
- For a team not used to late-inning heroics, it was nice to see Tony Campana and Alfonso Soriano come off the bench in the 9th and put up back-to-back pinch hits to help temporarily fight off the loss. Darwin Barney also pitched in late with a hit to take a win away from Homer Bailey and a save from Francisco Cordero. It didn’t last long, but any fight from this team is still appreciated.
What Went Wrong
- Randy Wells is who we thought he was! HE IS WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS! Two-run homers from Pena and Byrd spotted him a rare four-run lead in the 1st, but it wasn’t enough tonight. I’m not inclined to tear into him too bad, but entering a game with a four-run lead and not making it out of the 5th inning is a frustratingly Cub-tastic outing.
- The bullpen didn’t do much to help, but my real beef here is with Quade. He didn’t get a great start from Wells, and needed a lot of work from the pen, but why burn Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol in the 7th and 8th innings, respectively? In both those innings the Cubs were still down by two runs, and even if he didn’t expect to score again and take the game to extra innings, why use up all your guys with late-inning experience? Sean Marshall came out to pitch the 9th and 10th innings, leaving James Russell to surrender the walk-off homer to Jay Bruce in the 11th. I know Russell has greatly improved throughout the course of the season, but is he really the guy you’re holding onto for that kind of late-inning duty? I just don’t get… I can’t understand… you know what? Forget it. The season’s almost over, and Quade will probably be fired soon after we hire a new GM. I’m done trying to figure out why he does the things he does.
- After that 1st inning, the Cubs really let Homer Bailey off the hook. The closest we came to scoring against him again came in the 3rd, when we loaded the bases with no outs and couldn’t get anything out of it. The secrets of hitting with runners on base is as mysterious to this Cubs team as the mechanics of time travel, the meaning of the Sphinx, and the Colonel’s eleven secret herbs and spices.
Not a lot left we can take away from this season. Mostly it’s about preparing for next year. So please pardon me for shouting, but PLAY THE KIDS, MIKE! PLAY THE DADGUM KIDS!!!
Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)
1st Star – Sean Marshall (.280 WPA)
2nd Star – Alfonso Soriano (.211 WPA)
3rd Star – Joey Votto (.206 WPA)