Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Friday, August 22, 2003
Curt Schilling struck out 14 Cubs in 8 innings tonight, but he wasn't the most dominating pitcher at Bank One Ballpark. Carlos Zambrano's first eight innings were super efficient, getting through the first 24 outs on only 72 pitches, before he stumbled though the ninth inning on his way to a 4-1 victory with big implications in the NL Central race.
The Cub offense came from the longball, Sammy Sosa contributing two bombs, and Aramis Ramirez providing a solo shot of his own. It was a typical Schilling performance: a couple of dingers, and a bunch of guys just looking silly. When they weren't hitting homers, the Cubs hitters were flat out overmatched against Schilling, particularly when he threw that wicked splitter. Sometimes, the splitter wasn't even the out pitch. On one of Randal Simon's at bats, he swung at and nearly made contact with a ball that, if it didn't hit the dirt, came awfully close, only to be struck out on a thigh high fastball on the inner half of the plate. Leave it to Simon to swing at the ball he can't possibly hit, and let the hittable pitch go by.
That doesn't matter, though, as the story of the night was Carlos Zambrano. It was so nice to see a Cub pitcher, any Cub pitcher, throw a complete game that didn't make me feel like his arm was in jeopardy. Despite a 21 pitch ninth inning where he walked a man and gave up a run on two clean hits, Carlos finished the game with only 93 pitches. Carlos had a no hitter through 7 2/3, and while it looks like he was the victim of a questionable call on the first hit of the game, the fact is that both Ramirez and Simon had to make fantastic plays to even make it close. Who knows what would have happened in the ninth if Carlos had been given the benefit of the call. However, when the ninth did roll around, he gave up two clean, hard hit balls that led to the D'Back's lone run, making it seem a little less like he got robbed.
And while the story may have been Zambrano's effort, the deeper meaning of the game is revealed with the rest of the evening's results. Both the Astros and Cardinals lost tonight, putting the Cubs in second place, 1/2 game behind the Astros and tying them in the loss column. This was a big deal, what with the Astros getting to theoretically beat up on the lowly Reds (a team they have owned all year) in their home park, where they've been dominating all season, while the Cubs had to content with facing one of the most dominating pitchers of the last couple of years in his home ballpark. The Cubs came out on top, gained some ground, and hopefully set the tone for the weekend.