Astros 3, Cubs 2

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • Starlin Castro led off he game with hit number 195 on the season, a double to left field.  Barring another educational benching by Mike Quade, he’s got 9 games left to get 5 more hits–not a sure thing, but very likely since he’s reached safely in the last 31 games.
  • Aramis Ramirez came off the bench in the eighth to hit a sac fly that scored Darwin Barney, giving the Cubs their second run.  At the time it looked like the beginning of a game-winning rally.  In the end, it was just another productive at-bat for a dynamic hitter who might be playing out his last days in a Cubs uniform.  I have to assume that the dominoes will start falling soon after the season for this Cubs team.  The new GM’s first moves will probably involve decisions on Ramirez and Carlos Pena.  If these really are Ramirez’s last days at Wrigley Field, I hope the Cubs fans show him the appropriate levels of love and gratitude.

What Went Wrong

  • The Cubs only took one walk today–Castro in the eighth.  Because when you’re getting dominated by a starting pitcher and you’ve had trouble scoring runs all year long, by all means, swing away.
  • If you watched the game or the highlights, you already saw the Pena home run that wasn’t.  If you didn’t yet, what you need to know is that Pena hit a long double that appeared to be a home run, bouncing out the basket and back onto the field.  At first, the umpires adamantly ruled it a home run, telling Pena to continue on from second base, where he had stopped.  Only after the Astros ‘ manager complained did they head in to look at the replay.  Upon review, it was clear the ball hit off the front edge of the basket.  The real bummer is that they ordered Castro–who had been on first base–back to third, taking the tying AND go-ahead runs back off the board.  Quade came out to argue the call and got himself ejected from the game.  The rain delay began after Marlon Byrd flew out to end the inning and the possible rally.  I almost never leave Cubs games early, even during the worst beatings, but all that plus the hour-long rain delay might have been enough for me to hit the road.
  • Ryan Dempster lost his fifth decision in a row.  I like Dempster, but I think his best days are far behind him–or at least his best days for the Cubs.  A three-run deficit wouldn’t be nearly as big a problem for a team that scores early and often.  But for our anemic bats, it presents more of a threat.  Dempster pitched well enough for the next six innings, but it didn’t make a difference.  I can’t help but think he’d be better off with a team that could climb back from an early deficit and make a game out of it, and that the Cubs might be better off taking a chance on a young arm they could develop (you know, if we ever did that kind of thing any more).
  • Just a quick thought about Mike Quade’s ejection.  I don’t often agree with Quade, but in this case I think I would have done pretty much the same thing he did.  First of all, I’m not sure what he could have said to umpire Marty Foster to get himself thrown out so abruptly, but it certainly looked unwarranted to me.  Regardless of what he said to the ump though, his frustration resonates with me.  There’s something unsatisfyingly arbitrary about how runners are assigned to bases in those instances.  You can make a reasonable case for Castro scoring from first on the play, and an equally reasonable one for him stopping at third.  What’s frustrating is that the game came down to a judgement call like that instead of an actual play.  It would have been nice if the Cubs had wrestled the outcome back out of the umps’ hands, but we’re just not that kind of team this year.
  • And just to be clear, the basket is not to blame here.  I’ve written recently about my love for the bleachers at Wrigley, and certainly the basket is an indivisible part of the bleacher experience.  I’ve seen small children and even grown men fall into it for the sake of securing a baseball.  I once saw a drunk guy drop himself out of the bleachers and land on he warning track on his head before getting up and humorously eluding the security staff.  When I was a kid, we once reached down through the basket, trimmed off a small piece of the ivy and nurtured it all the way back to California on the dashboard of our car (back home it briefly sprouted before dying off completely).  So you won’t hear any “Let’s tear down the basket!” knee-jerk reactions from me.  Any longtime Cubs fan will tell you it results in far more home runs than it might cost us.  I love it–even if it kinda hosed us today.

The Takeaway

Castro’s race for 200 hits; the future of Old Man LaHair and the kids; and what could be Aramis Ramirez’s final days in a Cubs uniform–there’s still at least a couple good reasons to watch these last few weeks of the season.  Go Cubs!

Stars of the Game

Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Mark Melancon (.388 WPA)

2nd Star – Brett Myers (.209 WPA)

3rd Star – Darwin Barney (.148 WPA)

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