I did, however, get to sit with some Chicago Public School teachers who were watching the Cubs’ game. I fear now, more than ever, for the future of America’s youth. If half the crap they were saying is true then it’s amazing that kids know the alphabet by the 12th grade.
Talk about setting the bar low and then underachieving.
However, I’m not in the mood to rant and rave today. I was going to provide a synopsis of Chicago’s two baseball seasons today, but I have to postpone that since I actually had work to do this week.
I apologize for any inconvenience.
But, even without my synopsis, both teams went out and played some baseball anyway. As CARRIE MUSKAT, of MLB.com, reports, the Cubs came out with a solid game plan only to fall just a little bit short.
The Cubs budgeted 75-80 pitches from Tom Gorzelanny in his first start since Sept. 1. However, they expected the lefty to spread those pitches out a little more than 3 1/3 innings.
Adam Wainwright won his career-high 20th game and Allen Craig hit a three-run homer to lead the Cardinals to a 7-1 win Friday over the Cubs.
“He got what he deserved,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Wainwright (20-11). “He’s had such a great year. What a performance. The wind’s blowing out at 20 mph. That’s some serious pitching.”
Chicago has scored two runs in its past four games, which began with a three-game series against the Giants, who have the best pitching in the National League.
“We have not been a juggernaut offensively,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “We’ve lost two key people in the past few days [in Geovany Soto and Tyler Colvin]. You want to compete, you want to contend. These are the kind of pitchers you run up against [in the postseason]. You’ve got to find a way to stay in the thing and if you can, win it.”
Wainwright joined the Phillies’ Roy Halladay and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia as 20-game winners in the Major Leagues this season. The Cardinals right-hander needed just six pitches to retire the first three Cubs batters and Aramis Ramirez launched the seventh into the bleachers for his 24th home run leading off the Chicago second. For the game, Wainwright gave up six hits and struck out seven.
“You can tell just by watching him pitch, he’s good enough to win 20 each season,” Gorzelanny said.
The Cubs left-hander gave up seven runs on seven hits and five walks in his brief outing. Gorzelanny (7-9) had not pitched since taking a line drive off his left pinkie finger three weeks ago against the Pirates. That wasn’t the problem.
“My bullpen warming up, I felt great and felt strong,” Gorzelanny said. “I got into the game and wasn’t in a groove and couldn’t find it and was trying to do too much and paid badly. It was one of those things that happens.”
He picked the wrong time, wrong team and wrong wind.
“He was up with way more pitches and this was not a day to be up with pitches,” Quade said. “He came out of it OK as far as health-wise goes. He just didn’t make pitches. This is a very good club and when the wind’s blowing out, it’s a tough thing to do.”
The Cardinals had two outs and two on in the first when Craig belted his third home run to go ahead, 3-0. Brendan Ryan and Wainwright hit back-to-back doubles with one out in the second.
St. Louis had runners at first and third with none out in the third when Craig hit into a double play, driving in another run. One batter later, Matt Pagnozzi hit an RBI double to make it 6-1.
Quade started Sam Fuld and Brad Snyder in the outfield, and needed to make an additional switch when Marlon Byrd had to leave after fouling a pitch off his face in the third. Byrd has a small cut below his right eye and a bruise. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for X-rays, and listed as day to day.
Quade had hoped the Cubs would rebound from Thursday’s 13-0 loss to the Giants.
“If you don’t have a short memory, you’re in trouble,” he said. “They always talk about closers being that way, but to me, it’s all of us.”
But they didn’t. It was the second consecutive day in which the starting pitcher failed to go past the fourth inning and facing Wainwright didn’t make it any easier. Quade recalled seeing the Cardinals starter in the Minor Leagues in Memphis.
“You don’t want to let him get that kind of a cushion, run-wise,” Quade said. “Anybody who accomplishes [20 wins] is something special. And he goes to the post, too. He’s a good pitcher.”
The Cubs are in the middle of a stretch in which they face three of the top four pitching staffs in the National League in the Cardinals, Giants and Padres.
“This isn’t the Yellow Brick Road,” Quade said. “This is going to be a tough task the next few days. The veterans know it and the kids are going to find out. We’re going to have to scratch and scrape and do everything we can to stay in games.”
Admit it. You’re singing that song from the Wizard of Oz right now. Aren’t you?
Despite their last couple of games, the Cubs have looked better overall these last few weeks. The new manager effect is usually good for ten or so games, this looks more like Quade has fixed what’s broken.
But, I wouldn’t announce the beginning of the Quade era just yet. One thing I keep hearing from my friends who work in and around the Cubs is the phrase “respected baseball man, Eric Wedge.” If I’d only heard it once or twice I’d ignore it. But, over the last couple of weeks I must have heard it around 10 times. Oddly enough, when I talk to other teams or sportswriters, none of them seem able to say that phrase with a straight face. If I were a Cubs fan my blood would run cold at the thought.
One guy whose blood never runs cold, Ozzie Guillen, found himself in the middle of another controversy this week when he stupidly answered a reporter’s question honestly. I don’t know how he manages to do it, but he continues to treat honesty like the Bride of the Apocalypse. He embraces her and the seventh seal gets broken. Well, if nothing else, he gave fans something to talk about instead of the Sox disappointing season.
Certainly he took their minds off of another crapola game from Manny Ramirez. SCOTT MERKIN, also from MLB.com, was in Anaheim for more than a day at Disneyland and brings us the wrap up of yesterday’s victory.
Ozzie Guillen has presided over the White Sox as manager since 2004, and he has followed a pretty simple theory in regard to measuring a respective season’s success.
If you don’t end up on top in the American League Central, at the very least, even in the course of a solid season such as 2010, you still are considered “first loser.”
But being officially eliminated from playoff competition by virtue of Tampa Bay’s victory on Thursday doesn’t mean the White Sox don’t care about their remaining 10 games. They fought back to beat Oakland with two outs in the ninth inning on Wednesday to end an eight-game losing streak, and pulled off another last at-bat victory on Friday in the series opener at Angel Stadium.
This 2-1 victory before 41,046 does come with a seldom seen and universally unwanted magic number for the White Sox (81-72). That total sits at seven to secure second place over the Tigers (78-75), to whom they lost six straight in closing out the season series.
“Well, everything you do, you take a little pride about it,” said Guillen, when asked if finishing second or third matters to him after being knocked out of playoff contention. “You didn’t make it to where you want to make it, but you want to finish the best you can.”
“Every time you put on a uniform, you want to win games,” said White Sox leadoff hitter Juan Pierre, who scored the game-winning run after drawing a one-out walk off Fernando Rodney (4-3). “Just from a personal standpoint, nobody wants to go out of here losing.”
Alex Rios followed Pierre’s walk and Omar Vizquel’s single to right with a run-scoring single in the ninth, providing the margin of victory. Matt Thornton (5-4) struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth as the White Sox improved to 5-2 this season against the Angels (75-78), who were eliminated from the postseason picture by virtue of Texas’ win in Oakland.
Friday’s story was not about the White Sox offense, though, which consisted of Paul Konerko’s 38th home run over eight innings against Angels starter Joel Pineiro. Instead, this night belonged to Freddy Garcia, who made a triumphant return to the mound after missing his last two starts due to back soreness.
Garcia not only survived the Angels offense, holding the opposition to one run on four hits over six innings, while fanning five and walking two, the right-hander also took a Hideki Matsui line drive off his right thigh leading off the second, but made the catch on the rebound and stayed in the game.
“The good thing is I caught the ball,” said Garcia with a smile. “After that, nobody cares.”
“When I went on the field, I thought I was looking for the worst,” Guillen said. “I thought he got hit in the hand. It hit him right in the muscle and Freddy continued to pitch well. He did all he could to help the team win today.”
Sept. 7 was the last time Garcia took the mound, and Friday’s 92-pitch effort marked the first time since Aug. 27 against the Yankees that Garcia was able to work more than five innings. He accomplished this feat against Pineiro, his friend and former teammate in Seattle.
“He’s like my brother. I learned so much from him in Seattle when I came up,” said Pineiro. “It’s the second time I think we faced each other. I’m going to see him after the game now, he’s coming to my house and we’re going to spend some time together.
“He’s just like a brother to me, he taught me a lot. That was a great duel between us. I thought it was good.”
Although Friday’s start was the 27th of a solid comeback season for Garcia, the veteran still felt as if it was necessary to prove he was healthy after his back issues. The free agent-to-be said he couldn’t really sit down between innings but felt good otherwise after stretching.
“You never know what they are looking for,” said Garcia, in regard to teams who could consider him for 2011 and beyond. “I’ve got one more start against Boston. I get to show everyone I’m 100 percent. That’s what I did tonight.”
“Any scout who sees the way he threw for us, I don’t see why he won’t pitch next year,” said Guillen. “I see guys with a lot less than he does. There’s no doubt he should be in the big leagues.”
Los Angeles scored its lone run in the fourth on Howard Kendrick’s triple and Torii Hunter’s single up the middle. But Garcia stranded runners at second and third in the sixth when he struck out Hunter and retired Hank Conger on a ground ball to Vizquel.
His ability to get out of that jam helped the White Sox improve to 4-12 since moving a season-high 17 games over .500 on Sept. 6. It’s not nearly good enough to win the AL Central but it should help the White Sox remain the division’s runner-up.
“Second place, it’s something there,” Pierre said. “You really just want to win games.”
“My priority is to finish first,” Guillen said. “But we finished second because the guys in first were better than us all year long. If you are not going to the playoffs, I think it’s a little pride thing. Finishing second is better than last.”
That catch, off the thigh, by Garcia should be highlight film for the week. How he managed to do that and stay in the game is beyond me. As to the rest, we needed pitching and our GM got us a bat. The results are exactly what everyone expected once that happened.