Did you know that the Pied Piper of Hamelin was based on a true story? Thousands of kids, from the village of Hamelin, Germany, disappeared around 1300 AD. Just walked off one day and were never heard from again.
Believe it or not, I got to thinking about that after both of Chicago’s baseball teams won yesterday. That may seems as though I was hitting the sauce a little hard, but let me explain.
Right before the game the general managers of both teams were interviewed by “the media” before their respective games and excerpts were played at various points of each game. Both want their fans to follow them, and their teams, with all the verve and dedication shown by those long ago children of Hamelin.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Wednesday there will be no “fire sale” at the Trade Deadline and that he’s looking forward to seeing the team whole once injured players like Marlon Byrd and Kerry Wood return.
“I read some things that people assume—they use the word ‘fire sale,’” Hendry said. “That’s not going to happen. We’re not interested in trading people at all who will be valuable to us moving forward. People like to float names of your better players which makes no sense [to me] to trade. If we make moves, it will be designed to make us better for the future.”
Byrd, on the disabled list since May 21 after being hit in the face with a pitch, was expected to be activated by Monday and possibly earlier. Wood, sidelined with a blister on his right index finger, may be on the active roster as early as Thursday.
The Trade Deadline is July 31 and Hendry said it’s not automatic that the Cubs will be active participants.
“We’ve got a lot of young people out there pitching and playing, and people who will be productive for us in a year from now who, when you get ready to put a team together in the offseason, you don’t want to start without them anyhow,” Hendry said. “As the games go, there’s less and less pitching available every year and less and less talent, for the most part. We’re certainly going to hold on to the people no matter what who we feel will be major contributors down the road.”
That said, Hendry is not content with the way the Cubs have played and expects a better situation when Byrd and Wood return.
“The bantering that goes on about how many people will be out of here [at the Trade Deadline] is foolish,” Hendry said. “There’s a lot of people you’re still capable of winning with down the road who are not free agents and you have control of their contracts for years that you’re not interested in trading.”
Hendry said the Cubs can turn things around in a short amount of time.
“We’ve done that before a few times and plan on doing it again,” he said. “You look at people winning now the last couple years who weren’t two or three years ago—people like Texas come to mind. Different clubs are in contention now that weren’t two or three years ago. Unfortunately, we’re on the other side.”
The Cubs began play Wednesday at 32-48 and 12 games back in the National League Central. Losing starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells after their starts in the first week of the season didn’t help.
“It’s obviously extremely disappointing,” Hendry said of the Cubs’ play. “Nobody expected that. There’s no sense in going with excuses—we haven’t played good enough baseball to be in contention.
“When you lose a couple of rotation guys, it puts us right behind the eight ball,” he said. “I think we’re 8-24 in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. That first week of the season when we saw Wells and Cashner pitch like that, I don’t think those two at that point in their lives would be 8-24.”
It’s not just the fourth and fifth starters who have scuffled.
“It’s kind of a snowballing effect,” Hendry said. “Now some of the guys who were not swinging in April are swinging better now. We still feel there’s a lot of baseball games. We’re not going to roll over.”
So, there you have it. Nothing’s going to change because there’s no need to change anything.
It is true that Carlos Pena seems to have either found his groove or joined the ranks of Rudy Jaramillo’s famous steroid users who won batting titles. Either way, Cubs fans clearly don’t care. He’s like a newer Sammy Sosa, without the heart taps and godawful defense. And we all know how much the Ricketts love the Sosa years. Yeah, one winning season every 5 or so seems about right for the new owners.
And, bonus, getting knocked out of the post season early saves them a lot of money so they can provide even more improvements in Mesa.
When Ken Williams works to assemble a particular White Sox team, he looks for talented players who are not just tough, but “Chicago tough.”
These individuals have the ability to handle the everyday rigors brought about by Major League Baseball, but also can survive the unique set of demands emanating from playing in Chicago.
Williams knows he has that “Chicago tough” permeating the 2011 roster. But through the halfway point of the present campaign, the White Sox don’t have that collective necessary edge in Williams’ estimation.
“No, we do not,” said Williams, who spoke about the team following Wednesday’s panel discussion, including White Sox director of player development Buddy Bell and director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann, as part of the Double Duty Classic held at U.S. Cellular Field.
“There are individuals that certainly bring that every day,” Williams continued. “But as a whole, I think we are licking our wounds a little bit too much.”
Adam Dunn’s season-long struggles and Alex Rios’ removal from Tuesday’s 13-inning loss in Colorado also were addressed by the White Sox general manager when he was directly asked.
The plan for Williams was to pretty much leave Dunn alone as he battles out of the worst three months of an otherwise highly productive career. But Williams was informed of how Dunn felt “really disappointed” as far as what the Chicago fans expected from him and what Williams, in particular, went out and did for him, by signing Dunn to a four-year, $56-million free agent deal.
At that point, Williams sat down with Dunn and reaffirmed his faith in the slugger. The GM also pointed out to Dunn how, when he’s on the other side of this horrendous slump—with 100 strikeouts and a .173 average—he’ll look back at it as simply a tough time.
“Paul Konerko in—I want to say 2003 - [he] once expressed to me, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get another hit,’” said Williams of the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player candidate, who hit a career-worst .234 in 2003 and had an average below .200 as late as July 17 that season. “I think he’s had a few hits since then.
“You’re going to have tough times like this. [Dunn is] in a new place and really trying to impress. At the end of the day, the talent doesn’t just disappear. He just has to get it in mind that sometimes you have to go back to Little League and the basics of, ‘See ball, hit ball.’”
As for Rios’ departure in the seventh Tuesday, Williams said manager Ozzie Guillen has his complete support for taking Rios out when the skipper deemed he wasn’t hustling.
“Those kinds of actions actually send a message to everyone else and serve as a reminder,” Williams said.
A reminder was issued on Wednesday morning by Williams, who explained how there’s a difference between acting patient and actually being patient with his underachieving team. Right now, Williams said he’s doing a good job of acting patient.
In order to turn this three-month bout of inconsistency into a potential division crown, Williams wants to see that Chicago toughness return, along with a greater focus on what the team ultimately can accomplish.
“You’ve got to [get past] whatever you’ve done up to this point in the season, you’ve got to wipe [it] away,” Williams said. “We have a chance to still win this. The individual numbers at the end of the day might not be what they want them to be, but we still have a chance to have a celebration at the end of the year.
“I’d like the focus to be on that and not the individual numbers. It’s hard to look up at the scoreboard and see those numbers you’re not used to seeing, or what they’re accustomed to them being when you are a player that has achieved quite a bit in this league. I get that.
“What I get also is it’s time—it’s time to wipe that away, because we’re better than this,” Williams said. “Now, I’d like them to band together and start playing a little better too.”
I was talking to a former pro scout yesterday and he said he’s amazed how calm Kenny appears. He pointed out that, as Kenny noted, all these guys have to do is play about their career averages and this team will walk into the post season and be a serious threat thereafter. But, obviously, they aren’t doing that.
Why they aren’t is subject to insane amounts of speculation but as my buddy, who does not like Ozzie, said “Blaming Ozzie is dumb. He’s an a**hole, but he’s still a great players’ coach.”
As you may have guessed, his problems with Ozzie are personal, not professional.
Another thing he pointed out is that many players these days refuse to do the things that need to be done to win games; sacrificing the runner over, situational bunting, diving for catches and running the bases intelligently. None of those things get you the big pay raise so they tend to get ignored.
He also pointed out that Ozzie and Quade each like to have teams that do those things first and that neither is a big fan of bash ball.
He refused to speculate on which one might be the better bet for a team’s long term development.
If he had I would have used his name. It would have been worth the lawsuit.
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Yesterday I was supposed to pick up a check. I had the client’s project on a flash drive and was going to drop it off when I got paid. However, it was going to be a long trip so I called first to make sure the check was there. The first person I spoke to claimed not to know me at all. When I asked for the person who hired me I was sent to their secretary and she put me on hold ..... for 11 minutes (yes, I clocked it).
When she got back on the line she apologized profusely and told me to call back.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
In order to provide me amusement the client called at 6:30 PM and DEMANDED to know why the project wasn’t delivered. When I mentioned that I hadn’t been paid and that, according to his (honest and trustworthy) staff, there was no check there for me, he delivered my favorite line; “I’ve been in business for twenty years, I own two Ferraris, you have to know I’m good for it.”
I pointed out that, clearly, no I didn’t and the fact that he had cool toys just proved that he paid himself first. On the other hand, I was willing to accept the extra Ferrari in exchange for the check I’m owed.
He’ll get back to me today.
Yeah, I’m holding my breath too.
Anyway, while I was dealing with this Chicago’s baseball teams went out and played some baseball.
We’ll start with the day in Wrigley since it was a long one. The Cubs had a make up game that they played in the afternoon and then they played the regularly scheduled game in the evening. After their exciting, and decisive, win over the Rockies the day before, they looked poised to go on a roll.
Just ask Len and Bob.
ALEX RUPPENTHAL covered the first game and reported on the many joys he saw.
The Giants entered Tuesday with the fewest runs scored in the Major Leagues and an average of 3.4 runs per game.
You wouldn’t have known it.
San Francisco scored a season-high 13 runs on 18 hits—also a season high—to beat the Cubs, 13-7, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. The Giants did the majority of their damage off Cubs starter Doug Davis, who gave up a career-high 12 hits in allowing 10 runs, which tied a career high he set in his first Major League appearance Aug. 9, 1999, when he gave up 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings of relief while pitching for Texas.
Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada homered for the Giants. Burrell and Aaron Rowand had three RBIs each.
Davis (1-7) pitched 4 1/3 innings, the fourth time in nine starts he has left before the fifth inning. With a night game to follow, Cubs manager Mike Quade tried to let Davis eat up innings, but with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth and the Cubs trailing, 7-3, he removed Davis for Chris Carpenter. Carpenter immediately gave up a bases-clearing double to Rowand, closing the book on Davis.
“It was just one of [those] days,” Davis said. “I felt like every time they hit the ball, it was where we weren’t, whether it was hard or soft ... Everything just happened so danged quick.”
After Davis’ performance, the Cubs’ four and five starters are now a combined 4-18.
“We’ve been real inconsistent in those spots,” Quade said.
Giants lead-off hitters reached in all five innings against Davis, who gave up a walk and three singles to start the game, leading to three first-inning runs.
The Cubs got even in the second, after Aramis Ramirez doubled off Ryan Vogelsong (6-1) to lead off the inning and Carlos Pena launched a two-run homer, his 17th of the season. Pena has homered in seven of the past 12 games.
Two outs later, Koyie Hill took advantage of the wind blowing out to right and hit his second homer of the season just inside the foul pole to tie the game at 3.
But the Giants scored the next eight runs. Pablo Sandoval had an RBI double and Burrell hit a two-run homer in the third to give the Giants another three-run lead. San Francisco scored five times in the fifth on Rowand’s three-run double, an RBI single by Chris Stewart and a sacrifice fly by Aubrey Huff, who reached when Alfonso Soriano dropped his liner to left for an error.
“He’s flat got to be a pitch-maker,” Quade said of Davis. “He walks a fine line. He doesn’t have the kind of stuff that he had when he was a youngster. He needs to get people swinging. He needs to get them off the plate.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy knew it would be important for his team to score more than usual.
“Especially when you figure you’re going to give up a few more runs than normal,” said Bochy, referencing the hitter-friendly conditions at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.
The Cubs got three unearned runs in the fifth, after an error by second baseman Bill Hall on Starlin Castro’s grounder.
Carpenter pitched 1 2/3 innings, James Russell threw two and John Grabow pitched the ninth to finish out the game for the Cubs.
“Bullpen-wise, we came out of it OK, so that’s a good thing,” Quade said.
Just FYI, Soriano got his 5th error of the season when he muffed an easy catch. He also walked towards a couple of other balls that, somehow - magically, eluded him. There needs to be a stat that covers lackadaisical play. It would be a category that Sori would win annually.
Anyway, Alex passed the baton to CARRIE MUSKAT so that he could hit the bars. Carries seems to seem as if she wished she’d joined him.
One play changed everything.
Cubs catcher Geovany Soto was charged with an error when he dropped the ball in the fifth inning of the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday against the Giants. Instead of an inning-ending double play, the game was tied and the Giants added four more runs that inning en route to a 6-3 victory and sweep.
The Cubs had taken a 2-1 lead on Lou Montanez’s two-run homer in the third, his first since May 9, 2009. In the Giants’ fifth, Andres Torres was on third with one out when Pablo Sandoval flied out to center. Torres went home and appeared to be out—at least, that’s what home-plate umpire Tim McClelland signaled. But McClelland then signaled safe after Soto dropped the ball. Cubs manager Mike Quade argued, but McClelland didn’t change his call again.
“I haven’t seen a replay—I don’t want to go look,” Quade said. “My take was it was ‘caught, tagged, out’ and in the effort to show the umpire he had the ball, it’s almost like the ball came out after the fact.”
It was still early. The game was tied at 2.
“It’s the fifth inning, there’s lots of baseball left,” Quade said. “We were still in good shape. We had good matchups. [John Grabow] just couldn’t make a pitch and it obviously snowballed.
“That play was obviously huge but we still had plenty of time to get out of that inning and situation and give ourselves a chance.”
After the dust settled, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross each singled to chase Rodrigo Lopez (0-2). The Cubs were hoping for at least 80 pitches over four to five innings and got 96 over 4 2/3 innings from the right-hander, making his second start and first since May 30.
Nate Schierholtz greeted Grabow with an RBI single, then Brandon Crawford hit a two-run double and scored on Eli Whiteside’s RBI single to go ahead, 6-2. Aramis Ramirez clubbed a leadoff homer in the ninth to shave the Cubs’ deficit to three runs.
“I think that changed the whole game,” Lopez said of the play at home. “We couldn’t finish the fifth inning with the lead. I saw the replay and of course, I think he was out. The umpires see it different and the Giants see it different, too. That play changed the game. I think I started getting tired after all the energy I used on the last play.”
Soto also watched a replay a few times.
“I got the ball and applied the tag and took my mask off and tried to flip the ball to my bare hand to show it, and as I flipped the ball, I dropped it,” Soto said. “I saw the play on video and I still think he was out, but the umpire was behind and it was tough for him to judge. We took a tough break right there.”
The Cubs’ bad breaks started the first week of the season when they lost both Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells to injuries. Since then, they’ve been trying to find starting pitchers to complete the rotation. They’re still looking.
The six pitchers who have rotated in the Nos. 4-5 spots for Chicago now are a combined 4-19 with a 6.82 ERA. How important is pitching? The Cubs are 23-18 when the starters go at least six innings and 9-30 when they don’t.
San Francisco totaled 18 hits in a 13-7 win in the first game and 12 hits in the second against the Cubs, who began the day with the worst ERA in the National League.
“Long, taxing [day] from a bullpen standpoint,” Quade said when asked to describe the lengthy day-night twin bill, “but you better not hang your head for long because we’ll be back here in short order to play these guys again and [Tim] Lincecum is pitching.”
Barry Zito (1-1) was tough enough. He gave up two runs over seven innings and picked up the win in his fourth start and first since April 15 after missing time because of a sprained right foot.
“He looked like he’s confident throwing strikes,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Sometimes when things go awry is when he puts guys on base and walks guys. He threw more quality strikes. He just had a different way about him; it seemed like he took all the pressure off himself and went out there and had some fun. That’s a good-hitting ballclub over there, so no lead is safe.”
It was Tuesday.
“Right now, you have to have a short memory, get your rest, and come back tomorrow,” Soto said. “[Lincecum] is a two-time Cy Young winner and a terrific pitcher. Hopefully we get good wood on the ball and good things will happen.”
No, that one play at the plate wasn’t the one that changed everything, although it didn’t help. Replays clearly showed that Soto’s tag was late anyway so dropping the ball was just a bonus. The team had another couple errors and committed a few more Soris, although not all were by Sr. Alphons, and basically played to lose. So don’t think there was a Bartmanesque moment yesterday, there was plenty of suckage to go around for everyone.
Anyway, while Carrie was scouring the press box for bourbon, NICK KOSMINDER was in Denver to watch the Sox play the Rockies. At some time one wonders if he took a nap as this game meandered forever.
Will Ohman had a feeling Ty Wigginton’s softly hit blooper was going to be trouble when it left the bat.
With Troy Tulowitzki on first base and running on a full-count, two-out pitch in the 13th inning, the lefty reliever’s fear was realized. Tulowitzki came all the way around to score the game’s winning run on Wigginton’s soft single to center, giving the Rockies a 3-2 walk-off win over the White Sox in front of 40,175 on Tuesday at Coors Field.
“Bottom line, I battled him, he battled me,” Ohman said. “I threw a good pitch in that situation. It drops in. Game over.”
Wigginton’s bleeder gave the Rockies their first walk-off win of the season, and it also erased a strong performance from the White Sox pitching staff. In relief of Gavin Floyd, the bullpen worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings before yielding the game-winner.
But the White Sox hitters were a different story, as they managed just one run after Alexei Ramirez’s solo home run—his seventh—in the second inning. Juan Pierre’s double in the fifth gave Chicago a brief 2-1 lead, but the club didn’t advance a runner to second base again.
“I don’t think we should feel bad, because we deserved to lose this game,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. “The way we played today from the first inning, I don’t think we should’ve won this game. The only good thing about this game we did, we pitched well.”
The solid pitching came courtesy of five different arms that kept a lefty-heavy Rockies lineup off-balance as the game waded into extra innings.
“They have some very good left-handed pitching in their bullpen,” said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. “Once we got into extra innings, they were somewhat negating our lineup. [Chris] Sale is very, very tough, and [Matt] Thornton is very tough on lefties.”
So was Floyd, who didn’t discriminate against right-handers, either.
In two previous starts against Colorado, Floyd was 0-1 with a 9.31 ERA, but he hurled seven strong innings on his way to a no-decision, another chapter in a strong Interleague resume for the right-hander.
Floyd entered the game with a 2.29 ERA in Interleague Play (12 starts), second all-time behind Erik Bedard’s 1.82, but he had gone 0-2 with a 6.16 ERA in his previous three starts overall. Making his first career start at Coors Field, Floyd washed away those woes by limiting the Rockies to just two runs on six hits. He threw 61 of his 94 pitches for strikes.
“I felt like I had good focus,” Floyd said. “I located pretty well and got out of some jams.”
Chicago broke a tie in the fifth on Pierre’s double, his second of three hits, which scored Gordon Beckham. The White Sox seemed primed to add more in the frame, but with the bases loaded, Carlos Quentin grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The White Sox also did not capitalize on a two-on, one-out opportunity in the third when the Rockies turned two on Brent Morel.
Seth Smith—who drove in Colorado’s first run on a single in the fourth—tied the game at 2 in the sixth on a sacrifice fly.
Some of the credit for Chicago’s rough night at the plate, which featured just two hits after the seventh inning, could be contributed to Rockies starter Jason Hammel, who delivered an identical performance to Floyd’s, giving up two runs on six hits over seven innings.
The Rockies also received stellar work from their bullpen, including a scoreless 13th inning from lefty Rex Brothers that netted the rookie reliever his first Major League win.
But Guillen said it was more a case of what his team did wrong in what he called “the worst game we played all year long.” Guillen pulled center fielder Alex Rios in the bottom of the seventh inning for what he called poor baserunning.
“Rios didn’t run the bases. That’s why I took him out of the game,” Guillen said. “If they don’t run the bases, that reputation comes with me, and I have a great reputation in this game to do it that way. If they don’t run the bases, they come out of the game.”
With Rios out of the game, it left Brent Lillibridge in center field to make a play on Wigginton’s hit in the 13th. But by the time Lillibridge reached the ball and made his throw to catcher A.J. Pierzynksi, it was too late to nail the hard-charging Tulowitzki, who began the winning rally with a one-out walk.
“It was a good call by their third-base coach, because he knew I had to break down and grab the ball,” Lillibridge said. “He knew where we were playing, and he was aggressive about it. That was just a weird, weird play.”
Ozzie summed it up. They deserved to lose and Rios deserved to be benched. Ozzie will never let his team commit a Sori no matter what the score is at the time. To those on talk radio this morning complaining that Lillibridge cost them the game, please see your medical professionals and get your prescriptions updated. That kid gave it his all, that ball just fell and there was nothing he, nor you nor anyone else, could have done about it.
One plus, Floyd looked good at the plate. Earning a walk, getting a hit and running the count to 8 pitches before grounding out, he looked better than many regular hitters.
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I had written a funny look at the history of baseball cliches. I even smiled at a couple of my own jokes. I was just about ready to post it when my phone rang and I stood up. Then my cat decided to help me and my computer crashed and wiped out the entire article.
So, article go bye bye.
I’d been inspired by the Cubs’ announcers yesterday. In an attempt to keep fans interested in the team, which is their job after all, they busted out how this win was exactly the kind of win they needed to try and get ready for the playoffs.
Cue Jim Mora.
I noted that when a manager says “We’ll be ready to make a run once we get (?????) back from the DL” what they’re really saying is “The players I’ve got now suck so bad that Girl Scouts could kick their ass.” Or when a player talks about “This team’s starting to gel” what they really mean is “Wow, I just found out who’s got the locker next to mine.”
There were a bunch more, but I was doing it off the top of my head and didn’t write any of them down.
Anyway, since the Cubs were my inspiration I may as well give them some pub today. CARRIE MUSKAT was at the game and managed to avoid any cliches.
Usually, Cubs manager Mike Quade addresses the team after a difficult loss or a sloppy game. On Monday, he took advantage of the positive vibe after a 7-3 win over the Rockies to point out the Cubs still have some work to do.
“The only time I talk to these guys is after a tough loss, a tough stretch,” Quade said. “It was a good day and a win, but let’s continue to clean those things up.”
Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez both hit a pair of home runs and each drove in three runs to back Matt Garza and power the Cubs to victory. The game was originally scheduled for April 22, as the finale of a three-game series, but was rained out.
“Does that count as winning a first game of a series? And a sweep? What a day,” Quade said.
Garza (4-6) has had two starts this season interrupted by rain, so he was the appropriate starter. The right-hander scattered five hits, including a pair of solo homers by Carlos Gonzalez, and struck out six over 7 1/3 innings.
“Garza was tough,” Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki said. “You’d have to ask him, but I think he had some of his best stuff of the season today. His curveball is one of the best. He was in and out, added a changeup in there. And he always competes, but I’d have to say this was up there with some of his best outings.”
It didn’t start that way. The Rockies were coming off an Interleague series against the Yankees in New York and made the brief layover in Chicago. Gonzalez showed no signs of jet lag with a leadoff homer, the fifth leadoff blast of his career and first this year, as he drove a 2-1 pitch from Garza into the basket rimming the left-field bleachers. Gonzalez also homered with one out in the eighth to chase Garza.
“The ball that Gonzalez hit in the first inning, I’m looking at [left fielder Alfonso Soriano] and thinking, ‘What are you doing?’” Garza said. “I’m like, ‘He can’t see the ball,’ and it lands in the basket. I didn’t know that was going to happen. That’s when I knew I had to keep the ball down and keep them off balance.”
Starlin Castro extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-out triple in the first and Ramirez followed with his seventh home run.
Jhoulys Chacin (8-5) entered the game having given up just three runs over 26 2/3 innings this month. The Cubs reached that total in three-plus innings as Pena hit his first homer of the game to lead off the fourth on a 3-1 pitch. The Cubs then loaded the bases with two outs and added a run on a wild pitch by Chacin during Tony Campana’s at-bat.
Ramirez doubled with one out in the fifth and Pena belted his 16th of the season, again off a 3-1 pitch from Chacin.
“I was mad because the home runs were because I didn’t make my pitches where I wanted to,” Chacin said. “I didn’t have the downhill plane, so everything was flat and up.”
This was Pena’s first multi-homer game with the Cubs, the 20th of his career and his first since June 20, 2010, with the Rays. All of his home runs this season have come after May 3. But ask if he feels comfortable at the plate, and he’ll say no. Pena has another early hitting session with coach Rudy Jaramillo lined up for Tuesday.
“I can’t tell you I feel outstanding at the plate,” Pena said. “I know there’s still work to do.”
A good sign was that Pena’s second homer was an opposite-field shot. A bad sign would have been if he altered his approach because the wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field.
“You don’t want to change your approach,” he said. “I think that’s when it hurts you, when you’re trying to hit home runs. We notice the flags, but the moment you start trying to do something is when you get away from seeing the ball and having good at-bats and not staying on your pitch.”
Ramirez can relate. He led off the seventh with his second homer of the game, this time off Clayton Mortensen. It was his 24th multi-homer game and first since July 20, 2010, against the Astros. Ramirez now has six homers in his past 26 games after hitting one in his first 46.
“For some reason, I wasn’t driving the balls the way I can,” he said.
Pena and Ramirez are the first Cubs teammates to have multi-homer games on the same day since Marlon Byrd and Geovany Soto did so June 9, 2010, at Milwaukee. It’s just the third time since the beginning of the 2003 season the Cubs have done so; Derrek Lee and Todd Walker also had multi-homer games July 18, 2005, at Cincinnati.
“The guys played great—you can’t ask for anything more,” said Garza, whose extended outing gave the bullpen a little breather heading into a doubleheader Tuesday against the Giants. “Pena with two bombs, ‘Ramy’ with two bombs. We just hit, hit, hit, hit. The thing we need to clean up—and I need to clean up—is our defense.”
Garza bobbled a ball for an error in the fifth, and Pena and Soto had a little miscommunication on a popup in the fourth. Neither error hurt the Cubs, but neither could be overlooked as far as Quade was concerned.
“I don’t want [Garza] or anyone else to be satisfied—‘Well, we won a game,’” Quade said. “Those mistakes will not go unnoticed.”
Pena liked the timing of Quade’s pep talk.
“He was utilizing the positive of a win to maybe just point out a few things that we want to improve on,” Pena said. “I think it’s a good tactic. We can use the positive energy. We came off the field, and it’s a good time to say, ‘Hey, guys we need to work on this.’”
So there you go. The team’s ready to roll.
Anyway, if you want to see a great list of baseball cliches, check out Don Carman’s great list that he posted on his locker in 1990, while he was with the Phillies, so that he wouldn’t have to talk with reporters.
My favorite is “We need two more players to take us over the top: Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig.”
If you really have time to kill, check out The Sports Cliche List.
And I mean like you have nothing else to do for the next 8 hours or so.
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How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, [thou wast] slain in thine high places.
2 Samuel 1:25
Am I overreacting? Is it possible that I’m falling into a trap of actually having hope? Have I deluded myself so greatly that I, like those pathetic losers who sob into their beers over every missed opportunity, actually care about what happens on the field?
Yes, no and I doubt it.
I’m well aware of what Chicago’s baseball fans are facing this year. On the Northside we have a team that is 1-9 over its last ten series. On the Southside we have a team of pure hitters who can’t hit. On the Northside we have a team that plays defense at a level that would get players cut from any Little League team. Even the ones that guarantee every kid, no matter how talentless, gets to play for three innings. On the Southside we have a team that is helping shrinks the world over more clearly define “communal schizophrenia.” When they pitch well, they can’t hit. When they hit well, they throw batting practice.
ADAM HOLT took in the game in Kansas City and talks about the positives the team took out of the loss.
Oh, I’m kidding, he saw the same game you did.
Allowing five consecutive hits to start a game isn’t conducive to victory. But leaving seven runners on base and going 0-for-6 with men on base from the fifth inning on isn’t helpful either.
So, rest a little easier Randy Wells; the loss wasn’t all on you.
Still, the Cubs starter gave up a four-run first inning en route to a 6-3 Interleague loss to the Royals on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
Even with the early deficit, Chicago battled back and threatened before those bats failed in the biggest moments.
Down 6-3 in the sixth inning, the Cubs had Carlos Pena on third with two out and three different batters failed to bring him home. Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto walked to load the bases, but DJ LeMahieu struck out on a check swing to end the inning.
In the end, that four-run blitz in the first off Wells was all the Royals needed. The first five batters he faced got hits, the sixth man walked and No. 7 hitter Matt Treanor added a sacrifice fly for the first out, but pushed the lead to 4-0. Kansas City gifted the last out when Jeff Francoeur was thrown out trying to steal.
“Not a whole lot to say about it,” Wells said. “I had a gameplan and came out and tried to execute it. It looked like they made the adjustment, they came right out on top of me. It’s just bad pitching on my part, I kept doing the same thing instead of making a quick adjustment. And before you know it, I’ve put the team in a 4-0 hole.”
Most of the pitches the Royals hit that inning were down and away, the batters simply doing a good job of getting the bat on the ball. Still, it’s not the kind of start a team that hasn’t won a road series in over a month wants in the rubber game.
“There were several hits on the board before we knew what hit us,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “They just came out swinging and got some fastballs to hit, and put them in play, well before we could regroup.”
Wells followed with a 1-2-3 second inning and the Cubs even pulled to within one run, courtesy of Soto’s second solo home run in as many days in the third and RBI hits by Blake DeWitt and Aramis Ramirez in the fourth.
Kansas City struck back immediately with two more in the bottom of the fourth to push the lead to 6-3, adding to Wells’ frustration.
“The four in the first, it happened so fast, you just kind of tip your hat to them,” Wells said. “But when your team comes out and scores some runs, you gotta get a shutdown inning. I didn’t do that, and I haven’t been doing it. It’s a shame, because I felt good today.”
Royals manager Ned Yost credited the two-run fourth inning as the turning point.
“Two runs in the fourth were huge, that kind of took the momentum away from them,” Yost said.
Wells went six innings, facing one batter in the seventh before being pulled. He allowed six runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out two.
His counterpart, Luke Hochevar, was off and on, giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings, getting chased with two out and two on in the sixth. The Royals’ bullpen took care of the rest, as the Cubs got just a hit and a walk, against six strikeouts after Hochevar left the game.
Chicago got a single from Soto to lead off the ninth—his third hit of the game—against Royals closer Joakim Soria, but LeMahieu struck out and Kosuke Fukudome hit into a ground-ball double play to end the game.
The lack of clutch hitting gave the Cubs their seventh straight Interleague series loss. Not counting Soto’s home run, Chicago failed to score every time it had runners on with fewer than two outs on Sunday.
“Seems like we’ve been in good positions all year to put teams away and we just haven’t been able to keep them down,” center fielder Reed Johnson said. “Obviously, they get off to a good start, scoring four runs in the first inning and we got our work cut out for us. And, especially if you’re a pitcher, in that situation you can attack the zone and make guys earn their way back in the game.”
It’s not a good trend for the Cubs, who have had trouble in close games recently. Chicago got the winning run home on Friday partly due to a misplayed ground ball that might have otherwise been a double play, and the bullpen buckled just enough to surrender the deciding run in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-2 loss.
“Gotta finish and gotta follow through and gotta find a way. That’s day in and day out. The grind don’t change,” Quade said. “The issue’s here again; we were down three today, but finding a way to not just stay in a ballgame, but maybe get a lead late and or try to finish a tie game late. Late inning runs or tack-on [runs] after decent starts have been something that’s avoided us and we’ve got to find a way to sustain our offense, that’s for sure.”
Yes, you read Quade’s last statement correctly, he was playing for a tie. That was his big hope. He’s given up trying to win, he’s accepted loss, he’s just hoping for a tie. Does that remind you of another, failed, bald headed manager?
I’m just asking.
On the Southside fans were, once again, treated to an offensive display that can only be described as offensive. PAUL CASELLA was at the game and watched fly ball after fly ball fall short. Which begged the question, “With the wind blowing in, and blowing strongly, is a grounder or a liner too much to ask?”
With the White Sox offense again struggling to produce in run-scoring situations, one swing of the bat by Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa ruined another solid outing from starter Phil Humber en route to a 2-1 White Sox loss.
Humber was working on a no-hitter through five innings, but lost it on a leadoff single by Jerry Hairston Jr. in the sixth. He would only allow two other hits over his 6 2/3 innings, but one of them was the two-out, two-run homer to Espinosa in the seventh inning.
“Obviously, when you get beat on one swing, you’re going to wish you’d done something different,” Humber said. “Either a different pitch or a different location, but that’s going to happen.”
In Humber’s mind, the difference in the game actually came one at-bat before Espinosa’s. With two outs, nobody on and the White Sox clinging to a 1-0 lead, Humber walked first baseman Michael Morse on five pitches. Espinosa then stepped up and blasted one into the right-field stands two pitches after he hit one just outside of the right-field foul pole.
“Really, as far as I’m concerned, the bigger mistake was probably pitching too carefully to Morse,” Humber said. “Even though Morse is hot and he’s a guy that can hurt you, I feel if he hits one out of here, it’s just a tie ballgame.
“If I had to take something back, that would probably be it.”
Unfortunately, with the White Sox failing to push runners around the basepaths, those two at-bats were all the Nationals would need to end the White Sox streak of 17 straight Interleague series victories.
The White Sox went just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Sunday and were 4-for-29 for the series while leaving a total of 32 men on base against the Nationals. Over their last 14 games, manager Ozzie Guillen’s club is hitting just .168 (19-for-113) with runners in scoring position and hasn’t had more than two hits in those situations since going 3-for-6 against the A’s on June 9.
“We continue to have that problem,” Guillen said. “We have to be better than that, you know what I mean. I think hopefully we will. When the game starts, you can’t do anything about it. Just let the players play the game and hopefully, they know what they have to do.”
The lack of timely hits allowed Nationals starter Livan Hernandez to pitch out of numerous jams on his way to the victory. Hernandez allowed just one run while striking out nine and scattering eight hits over 6 2/3 innings.
He managed to strike out batters to end both the first and fourth innings with two runners on base, and limited the damage of a White Sox rally in the third inning. With runners on first and third and just one out after a Paul Konerko RBI single, Hernandez struck out Adam Dunn and induced an Alex Rios popout to escape any further damage.
“He knows what he’s doing and he doesn’t worry about anything,” Guillen said of Hernandez. “He throws 130 pitches and doesn’t even sweat. He knows how to pitch and he’s there for a reason.”
Along with the third-inning strikeout, Dunn also struck out to end the threat in the first inning and with nobody on to end the fifth. He completed an 0-for-4, four-strikeout day when he went down swinging to start the eighth inning, marking his 100th strikeout this season. Dunn is hitting just .173 with seven home runs and has recorded six straight multi-strikeout games.
“In the grand scheme of things, if he wants to play 15 years ... to have a few bad months is such a blip on the radar screen,” Konerko said. “It’s [tough] when you’re going through it, but you just got to think big picture. Once you get over that hump and get by it, you’re a better player for it, and better hitter and everything will be better for it.”
For Humber, it was his first loss since April 30 and ended a eight-start stretch in which he went 5-0 with a 2.80 ERA. The right-hander, whom some considered to be the odd-man out on a team with six starters earlier this season, has now pitched at least six innings in each of his last 11 starts and still leads all White Sox starters in wins, ERA and quality starts.
“Phil threw awesome. I wish we could have gotten him more runs,” Konerko said. “He didn’t deserve to lose that game. Neither of the starting pitchers did, but it was just kind of one swing of the bat and we couldn’t get back even.”
“I couldn’t believe Ozzie used Jake Peavy two games in a row,” outing Nationals interim manager John McLaren joked. “Humber looked like Peavy out there. He was magnificent.”
With the loss the White Sox fell to 38-41 and to four games back of first-place Cleveland going into the Indians’ Sunday night game against the Giants.
Some good news, Cleveland choked again so the Sox are still just 3 1/2 out of first. And while Konerko’s on an MVP caliber tear, the other 8 hitters aren’t scaring anyone. Opposing teams may as well walk Paulie and then laugh their way through the rest of the game.
So what’s a Chicago baseball fan to do during these dark days? Bourbon helps.
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Who knew that watching baseball could cause weirder hallucinations than a night at a rave? I’ve toured with bands who had a firmer grip on reality than anything I saw yesterday.
Forget the proverbial clown cars. No rubber noses and floppy feet could ever come close to this. Forget Cirque du Soleil. No matter how phantasmagoric their presentations are, they pale in comparison to the reality presented on the field Saturday.
How odd were things yesterday? The Cubs pitcher and shortstop disagreed on who would have missed the ball more and the Sox became the first major league team to ever use Jake Peavy as a reliever.
And that was the normal stuff.
ADAM HOLT was in Kansas City and watched the game. Hopefully he got a chance to savor some of the local Bar-B-Q and home made bourbons. God knows he certainly needed a break after the game.
Series openers? Sure, the Cubs can win those. It’s that pesky second game that’s been the issue recently.
Chicago lost another close Interleague contest to the Royals, 3-2, at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 38,744 that included many visiting Cubs fans.
With the score tied 2-2 and one out in the eighth inning, reliever Jeff Samardzija came in to face pinch-hitter Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur walked on a full count, and Samardzija walked Mike Moustakas to put two men on. A passed ball moved the runners to second and third, but Wilson Betemit struck out for the second out.
Royals second baseman Chris Getz, whose misplay allowed the Cubs to score the winning run in Friday’s game, would redeem himself, hitting a bouncer that Samardzija couldn’t glove and giving Getz enough time to beat Starlin Castro’s throw to first.
“I couldn’t stop myself. I saw it coming, I thought I had a chance at it,” Samardzija said. “In hindsight, when you’ve got a good athlete like Castro back there at short, you’ve got to take your odds that with him smashing that ball in the ground right there, that Cassy’s gonna get him and make that play.
“It was close and I still even hit it. If I don’t touch it, he probably makes that play.”
Getz offered a different take on it.
“In that case, I think that one was sneaking through,” Getz said. “[Samardzija] actually gave Castro a chance. And the only reason I’m saying that is I talked to Castro. And I’m like, ‘Do you get to that ball?’ And he goes, ‘No, I’m playing over. It’s probably sneaking through.’”
The bases were loaded when James Russell came in, but he struck out Melky Cabrera to end the inning. The damage was done though, and the Royals had a 3-2 lead.
All three Chicago batters struck out in the ninth as Royals closer Joakim Soria picked up the save.
Cubs manager Mike Quade said the walk to Francoeur keyed the Royals’ comeback, an assessment Samardzija agreed with.
“Francoeur put a good at-bat there,” Samardzija said. “I thought we threw him two good sinkers in on the hands and I thought we had him set up to go with a slider away. Just, 3-2, it’s gotta be on the plate. You gotta either make him swing it, or if you fool him, backwards K him.”
For a while though it seemed like neither team wanted to win. The Cubs had nine hits, but had two men on base at the same time just twice, failing to score both times. Chicago left six men on base in the game and went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position. That one hit was a single by Jeff Baker where Reed Johnson was thrown out at home plate by Royals left fielder Alex Gordon.
Chicago’s only runs came on back-to-back solo home runs by Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto in the sixth inning, off Royals starter Danny Duffy. It was the first time since June 8 the Cubs hit consecutive home runs.
“Stringing stuff together, looking for that big extra-base hit in certain situations, obviously,” Quade said of what the Cubs needed to do. “Hitting’s a tough deal; you put eight, nine hits together and you get two, three runs.”
Meanwhile, the Royals stranded 10 runners on base, as the Cubs worked out of bases-loaded jams in the fifth and eighth innings.
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano gave up two runs in the fifth inning, but worked himself out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam to limit the damage. Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler hit RBI singles for the Royals and Gordon’s single filled the bases. But Zambrano got Mitch Maier to line out softly to short and a pop foul from Mike Moustakas to end the inning.
“The second hitter, it wasn’t a good pitch, a split-finger,” Zambrano said of his pitches to Hosmer and Butler. “Then I faced Butler, a good hitter. I tried to throw a sinker to him and it stayed flat.”
Zambrano only allowed the two runs though going seven innings on his 111 pitches. He allowed eight hits and walked three while striking out two, showing composure in pitching out of some early messes. He was helped out by two ground-ball double plays.
“It’s funny, because ... I don’t think he was hit hard,” Quade said of Zambrano. “They had some people on base—he does a really nice job, because he’s quick to the plate, stopping the running game down. I know [manager Ned Yost’s] crew likes to run. He worked through it. He may not have been dominant, but ... It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece for me to be excited about the way he threw.”
The Cubs dropped to 4-7 in Interleague Play this season and 15-23 on the road. Even more frustrating for Chicago are the close results—five of the Cubs’ last seven losses were by one run.
“I just think we need to, when it gets to crunch time, 2-2 in the eighth, we’ve got to make a play, we’ve gotta make a pitch,” Samardzija said.
Yes, Zambrano did pitch well. But that didn’t matter. That 8th inning was written by Kafka. When Samardzija slapped that ball it was as though the whole world went into slow motion. The ball went one way, Castro went another but eventually headed for the ball and Samardzija looked as though he was chasing imaginary kittens.
I believe they were fluffy imaginary kittens.
When Castro finally got to the ball Getz was pretty much already safe. The throw was more a formality than any sort of serious attempt to get him out. The one true thing is what Getz noted, had Samardzija not slapped that ball it probably would have cleared the bases. But, as it worked out, KC didn’t need any more runs.
On the Southside, the Sox refused to be out surrealed (is that even a word?) by the Cubs. PAUL CASELLA was at the Cell and managed not to be a burbling maniac by the 5th inning.
Just hours after using all of their relievers in a 14-inning loss, a two-hit shutout in which they didn’t allow a single Nationals runner to reach third base would seem to be an ideal result for the White Sox.
But Saturday’s 3-0 victory isn’t exactly what manager Ozzie Guillen had in mind.
Guillen was forced to go back to his bullpen after just 1 2/3 innings when starter John Danks left the game with a strained right oblique. But the White Sox pitching staff combined for the shutout behind a gutsy performance from Brian Bruney, a dominant first Major League relief appearance by Jake Peavy and a three-up, three-down ninth inning by Sergio Santos.
“I think Peavy jinxed it,” Guillen said. “He went to my office before the game and said, ‘[If] you need me, I’ll be available.’ I said, ‘[If] we need you, we’re in trouble.’ Well sometimes you’ve got to be careful what you say. All these games I’ve been managing in my career, I think this one I’m not going to forget.
Working on two days’ rest after his first start since returning from the disabled list with a strained groin, Peavy struck out seven batters over four innings of one-hit ball in his first relief appearance since he was with the Padres’ Class A Fort Wayne affiliate in 2000. Needless to say, Nationals interim manager John McLaren said the team was caught off guard by the White Sox using Peavy, whose previous 238 big league appearances had all been starts.
“I didn’t see Peavy’s name on that list. I’m going to talk to that Ozzie Guillen about that tomorrow,” McLaren joked. “They have six starters. They can do that. They were forced into a piggy back. It was a pretty good piggy back.”
“I don’t want to make a big deal of it,” Peavy said. “I needed to do it for my team. That’s the bottom line. We had to find a way to win the game, and give us a chance to win the series tomorrow.”
The outing was drastically different from Peavy’s start on Wednesday, when he lasted 5 1/3 innings, walked three and gave up seven hits before exchanging words with his own catcher while exiting the game. On Saturday, he was just happy he had “better stuff” and could help pick up Danks.
“Obviously, I’ve been where he’s at, more than I would like,” said Peavy, who has made just six starts this season, which has been interrupted by two separate stints on the DL. “He’s bumming out, no doubt about it, but he’s going to be OK.”
Despite the overpowering display from Peavy, it was Bruney’s performance that allowed Peavy enough time to loosen up and prepare to come in the game. Bruney, who gave up a two-run homer in one inning on work on Friday night, pitched another 2 1/3 innings on Saturday. He allowed one hit and one walk, preserving the White Sox 1-0 lead, which came on a Carlos Quentin sacrifice fly in the first inning.
“I think we stretched Bruney a little bit more because I didn’t want to bring Peavy in the middle of the inning,” Guillen said. “And I think Bruney did a tremendous job to try to hold those guys out there.”
Along with Danks’ 1 2/3 hitless innings and Santos’ 1-2-3 ninth, Bruney and Peavy combined to allow only four Nationals baserunners, none of which reached as far as third base, with only two advancing to second.
The closest the Nationals came to threatening against Peavy was in the sixth inning when Ian Desmond singled with two outs and then advanced to second on an errant pick-off throw. Peavy then struck out Ryan Zimmerman on his way to retiring the final seven batters he faced, including five by strikeout.
“I knew I could just take my tank to empty,” Peavy said. “When you start a game, you kind of feel your way through it and you pace yourself. It’s a completely different mindset coming out of the bullpen, and I enjoyed it.”
The only thing that stopped Peavy from finishing the game in the ninth inning was the White Sox finally coming through offensively with runners in scoring position. Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Alex Rios beat out an infield single to load the bases before Ramon Castro singled home two insurance runs on a blooper to right field.
The singles by Rios and Castro were the South Siders’ only hits with runners in scoring position as they finished the day 2-for-9 in those situations and stranded 10 runners.
“[Peavy] would have finished the game if we hadn’t scored the two runs,” Guillen said. “He would have come back out because I wanted to give Santos a day off, but then the inning was a little bit too long and then we get a three-run lead and I don’t want to take any chance with that.”
While there was a shortage of arms available in his bullpen, Guillen said he certainly wasn’t short on options once Danks went down. Not only had Peavy volunteered himself to pitch, but Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd, who pitched an inning of relief in a 14-inning game on May 28, also said they were ready to go if needed.
“This shows resiliency and this shows fight,” Peavy said. “This shows character and heart. That’s what we want to pride ourselves on and be a collective unit and obviously it took all 25 of us to win today.”
With the win, the White Sox improved to 38-40 and—coupled with the Indians’ loss on Saturday—cut their division deficit to 3 1/2 games. The win also allows the White Sox to try for their 18th consecutive Interleague series victory on Sunday.
What our pal Paul doesn’t mention is the bizarre second inning when Gorzellany balked, Beckham struck out but stole first on the dropped third strike and then Harriston actually tried the old Bugs Bunny classic, the hidden ball trick, when Castro was on third. I haven’t seen that play since little league. Obviously Castro had since he made sure to keep his hand on the base and slowly dragged his feet onto the bag and just stood there until Harriston tossed the ball to the Gorzellany.
I kept waiting for Porky Pig to pop up from under the bag and say “Th Th Th That’s All Folks!”
I was actually disappointed that he didn’t.
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