Many of us are suffering from lowered expectations for the Cubs this season. After this series loss to the Pirates, should we now expect the Pirates’ dominance of the Cubs from last year to inexplicably continue on through this season? The Cubs went 5-10 against the Pirates last year, and they are off to a bad start again this season after this weekend’s opening series. This is one team the Cubs should beat with regularity, and I think they still will. The Cubs made the Pirates’ starting rotation look pretty good all weekend–most of the offensive damage they did came against the bullpen. Scott Morschhauser did tell us in podcast episode 3.03 that he expected the front end of their rotation to be fairly solid.
Ryan Dempster served up a grand slam to Cubs-killer Neil Walker that ended up being the difference in the game. Dempster had pitched four strong innings, but the wheels then fell off. The Cubs relievers looked decent at least, except for the drama that Samardzija created in his inning.
This game wasn’t looking too good for the Cubs, until they had a five-run eighth inning off of one of the Pirates’ most solid relief pitchers, Evan Meek. Blake DeWitt was the unlikely hero in this game. He entered the game as a pinch hitter and cracked a game-winning double, much to the delight of the Ivy Envy crew at Twenty. Early in this game, the Cubs looked pretty terrible at the plate; in fact, Len and Bob mentioned that Carlos Zambrano’s third-inning at bat (he hit a double) was the best the Cubs had come up with so far in the game. The terrible approach early on made the string of hits in the eighth inning that much more satisfying. Zambrano had a decent outing, but the Cubs relief staff looked awesome. Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall both pitched very well, and Marmol struck out the side to end the game.
This game was entertaining, yet ultimately very frustrating. The Cubs really managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this one. The Cubs were up 4-3 after Soriano’s go-ahead homer in the sixth, but the Pirates scored two in the ninth inning to hand Carlos Marmol his first loss of the season. It looked like Pittsburgh was only going to tie the game on an infield single, but Starlin Castro made an ill-advised throw across his body to try to get the runner at first, allowing Walker to score the winning run. Matt Garza pitched well enough to win in his Wrigley debut. Though he gave up 12 singles, he also struck out 12 batters.
Charging Out of the Gate
Starlin Castro was 8-13 in this series, and he hit two hustle triples in today’s game. Too bad the game was pretty much lost on his decision to make an awkward throw to first in the top of the ninth. If nothing else, we know we will enjoy watching Castro play this season.
Failure to Launch
Marlon Byrd went 2-14 in this series, and hit into a game-ending double play today in the bottom of the ninth. He played well in spring training, and he will play well this season. The Cubs just need him to go ahead and start doing that soon.
Not in the Face!
Tyler Colvin had a great catch and throw to the plate today to nail Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo for a double play. And Jaramillo definitely was blasted by Geovany Soto in the face.
The D-backs come to town for a three-game series. This will be our first chance to see Wells and Cashner start, so those games should be interesting to watch. Who will play 2nd base for the Cubs? Tune in Monday to find out!