Cubs 4 @ Phillies 6
Nonstarter – These Chris Volstad recaps are beginning to write themselves. He threw 5 good innings for the Cubs tonight against the Phillies–unfortunately, he pitched for 6 innings. At least this time he got it out of his system early. Here’s his first inning: infield single, strikeout, infield single, run-scoring single to center, strikeout, walk, another two runs come in on a single to right, followed by another run-scoring single to right (with a Soto error throw in for fun), and a groundout by the pitcher to end the inning. After facing a gruesome 9 batters in the first inning, he kept it down to 3 or 4 for most of the rest of his day, until he faced 5 in the sixth. Take away that first inning, and this might have been his best start of the season. I’m inclined to feel sorry for Volstad, since every time he takes the mound he’s got to face down the whole “he’s going for his first win since July 10th” storyline, but honestly he’s really his own worst enemy. Tonight might have been particularly tough, since he was able to calm it down and throw 5 good innings, keeping the Cubs within reach.
Forget About Juan Pierre and Throw Strikes! – Seven simple words that should have come out of either Chris Bosio’s or Dale’s mouth at some point during the bottom of the eighth. Pierre pinch hit with one out, and spent most of the next couple at-bats jumping around at first base and causing Scott Maine and Rafael Dolis great distress and anguish. The nefarious base-stealer and former Cub never actually took off for second, but he was certainly in the heads of our relief pitchers. Pierre and Jimmy Rollins–who singled over the out-stretched glove of a leaping Darwin Barney–both scored on Placido
Domingo Polanco’s double to left. I don’t know if we could have added on again in the ninth if our bullpen could have held the tie–sadly, we don’t have the kind of relieving corps you need for that kind of thing. Still, we took two of four from the Phillies on the road–I’m not inclined to grouse about losing a game in which we trailed for all but about an inning.
Stranded in Scoring Position – That’s not to say the Cubs didn’t have their share of missed scoring opportunities tonight. In the top of the seventh, they had the bases loaded with no outs, and only got one run out of it. All told, they stranded 7 runners on base. It wasn’t all bad though–Starlin Castro had a pair of singles and an RBI, and Bryan LaHair hit a double and a two-run bomb over the right field wall. Many people have pointed out that LaHair has quietly put up a great April, and they’re right. But this team can’t count on him or the absentee Alfonso Soriano to provide all the offense. Stranding runners is a sure way to kill our chances for a win.
Fast Tony – Tony Campana stole another base tonight–his 7th of the year. He was in the process of stealing his 8th when Castro fired a single through the gap into left field. Campana was already in full stride, so he simply came around to score the Cubs’ first run of the night. I’ll admit Campana is a one-trick pony, but it is a pretty fantastic trick. And he hasn’t had to rely too heavily on the drag bunt single to get on base. Count me as increasingly optimistic about his chances to make it in the majors.
Other News – Kerry Wood’s rehab is coming along as planned. He threw a simulated game on Monday and is projected to return to the bullpen on Thursday or Friday, although he won’t go right back to the set-up role…… Soon-to-be-free-agent pitcher Cole Hamels sounds like he might be interested in signing with the Cubs. I don’t know if a big-money pitcher is part of Theo and Jed’s plan next season, or if they want to tie up money in both Hamels and Matt Garza (as Gordon Wittmeyer suggests), but it would make the Cubs’ rotation significantly more formidable…… Jonah Keri ranks all 30 MLB teams each Monday for Grantland.com. Here’s what he wrote about the 27th-ranked Cubs this week: “This is as interesting a no. 27 team as you could hope to find. Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija are a treat to watch every five days, Starlin Castro might have the quickest wrists in the game, and Bryan LaHair is one of the best stories in baseball. LaHair’s .607 (.607!!!) BABIP will regulate just a tad, which should bring down his overall numbers. Still, this is a guy forever labeled a Quadruple-A player, a journeyman who hit and hit in the minors but could never get a clean break. Comes up to the majors … and posts a 1.197 OPS. If you don’t like the Bryan LaHair story, you’re either a Cardinals fan or you’re not trying.”