Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Saturday, April 10, 2004
Game Notes: Survivor: Atlanta - or - Todd Hollandsworth Is My New Best Friend
I don't know about you, but after Joe Borowski's second frightening save of the year, sealing a victory for the Cubs in what can only be described as a standoff at high noon - or in this case, midnight - to see who would stop blowing their offensive opportunities first, I just had to go to bed and sleep the whole thing off. After some much needed rest and some time to think, here's what I've come away with:
It was good to finally see the sort of pitching performance we became all too accustomed to last season. Carlos Zambrano was sharp as he could be, giving up only two hits and walking three, while striking out seven over seven innings. The only run came on a sinker that got up and in on Andrew Jones, and he deposited it in the left field bleachers. Of course, it should come as no surprise that Big Z was left out longer than any other pitcher so far this year (109 pitches), but he looked strong and solid doing it, so I won't get nutty about it.
Had Todd Hollandsworth not come through in the ninth inning with his game tying homer off John Smoltz, I would have been surprisingly pleased with the Cubs' offensive effort, or I should say, as pleased as one can be after a shutout. However, if victory had not been achieved in the extra frames, I would have had the same feeling I've had the last two days. Here's what I mean:
First Pitch Swings/PA
Despite the lack of results, the Cub offense was doing the things necessary to be in a position to succeed in the first seven innings. The two big early opportunities were in the 2nd with men on 1st and 2nd with no one out, and in the 6th with the bases loaded and one out. Both times, Alex Gonzalez came to the plate, and both times he popped out. Frustrating to be sure, but both appearances were seven pitch affairs, and in both cases, Gonzalez got a pitch to hit and just missed it.
I can live with the team getting itself in a position to win and failing, but what really gets me upset is when the club doesn't give itself the opportunity in the first place. That's what they have done the last two days, and it's what they did in the final eight innings last night. Had the result been different, the smoke from my ears would have summoned the fire department.
Anyone looking for reasons to bemoan the Juan Cruz trade found plenty to cry about last night. Cruz threw like Cub fans always hoped he would, and made the Cub offense look horrible doing it. He certainly pitched head and shoulders above Andy Pratt, who threw a shaky two-thirds of an inning. The open question, as was always the case in his tenure in Chicago, is how often can you count on that type of performance? If Leo Mazzone can bring him around and get similar work to last night more often than not, then Jim Hendry got robbed blind. However, that 'if' is still as large as Cruz' potential, and if Mazzone can find the answer to this riddle, more power to him.
As tightly pitched as last night's contest was, things could get as loose as Juan Cruz' uniform top tonight (geez, can't they make one that fits him?!?), as young question mark Sergio Mitre faces multiple retread, Jaret Wright. Fasten your seatbelts, Cub fans, tonight could be a bumpy ride!