Series Recap: Cubs 8, Brewers 5, Gregg Murdered
Pre-Recap Update - By this time tomorrow, hopefully, the Zambran-0-Meter 2009 edition will be up on the site along with an article loudly proclaiming my prediction of 110 wins and World Series dominance. So if you are superstitious and have a weak stomach, you might want to avoid GROTA for a while.
The Cubs leave Milwaukee with another series win, following another offensive explosion - this one of the less likely kind, a defensive gem, and a diaper-filling appearance by Kevin Gregg. Let's break it down:
Offense - For the first time that I can remember, the Cubs had more runs - all earned - than hits. It all happened thanks to the disintegration of Jeff Suppan in the 4th, when he hit one batter, walked a guy, surrendered a single, and then proceeded to walk the next 3 batters he faced. He was then yanked for Jorge Lugo who also walked home a run before escaping.
I'm sure that it's not too uncommon for a team to have more runs than hits - maybe even a lot more runs than hits like the Cubs, but it's still a pretty weird line. I'm sure that if Dusty was still managing the Cubs, he would've have frustratingly called for his hitters to be more aggressive after the first or second guy got walked home. Let's be happy that the Cubs are a much better disciplined team these days.
As for runs earned "legitimately," the Fonz selfishly led off the game with a homerun, Theriot doubled home Fontenot in the 5th, and Three Finger Hill doubled home Theriot in the 9th. Oh, and Derrek Lee sac-flied Joey Gathright in the 8th, giving him 2 RBI to go along with 0 hits. Go figure.
I had a small debate with AJ in the sbox about Lee. AJ noted that in a 1 out situation with a runner on 1st and 3rd, he'd rather see Hoffpauir at the plate than Lee because Derrek is far more likely to hit a ground ball. I disagree with that, though.
It's true that Lee hits more grounders - almost twice as many, on average - because high strikeout players will always be prone to hit fewer balls on the grass. But it's also true that, on average, Lee has been a good hitter who's batted .290 or better in most of his years with the Cubs, meaning that while he'll hit more ground balls he'll also be more likely to get ground ball hits. The double play stigma attached to Lee's reputation is an example of overthinking. GDP's tend to occur by chance more often than not, not because a hitter is "prone" or "declining." I'd be a little surprised if Derrek hit as many GDP's in '09, and if he is indeed a better hitter than Hoffpauir - and slow start notwithstanding, he is a better hitter than Hoffpauir - then I'd take the guy who's more inclined to actually get a hit every day over the guy who's bound for striking out big.
Incidentally, Milton Bradley came up lame running the bases in the 4th inning, which allowed for Reed Johnson to make an entrance that would be incredibly memorable, but more on that in a minute.
Bradley, incidentally, has a tight right groin ::shudders:: but is listed as day-to-day.
The Pitching - Ryan Dempster is escaping with mediocre stuff right now. In the first inning, he loaded the bases with one out and, despite tossing a wild pitch, escaped with one run allowed. In the third inning, he allowed 2 men on without permitting either to score. In the fourth he served up a solo homerun before striking out the next 3 batters. Then came the fifth inning. This one deserves it's own paragraph.
In the fifth inning, Dempster gave up singles to Ricky Weeks and Craig Counsell before hitting Ryan Braun to load the bases for the fat-but-dangerous Prince Fielder. Fielder then proceeded to crank a blast to deep right field, where Reed Johnson - fittingly subbing for the sore Bradley - made a running catch which robbed Fielder of a game-tying Grand Slam.
Desipio participant section242 said it best ... The Prince literally tipped his cap to Reed. When he did he revealed a half eaten donut under his hat.
It's very likely that had Soul Patch not been in the game, that ball would've been a goner. Let's call it a Serendipitous Injury and move on.
Amazingly enough, Dempster gave up only 2 runs that inning, escaped, and came back to pitch a scoreless 6th. Then, having decided to take the more conservative route, Lou actually picked - and used - one reliever per inning. Marshall pitched a scoreless 7th, Marmol pitched a dominating 8th, and Kevin Gregg stepped in and pitched a gut-wrenching, vomit-inducing 9th. Having gotten the first 2 outs of the inning with apparent ease, Gregg served up a homerun to Ricky Weeks, a double to Craig Counsell and a walk to Ryan Braun. Then, with Prince Fielder again up and ready to do some game-tying damage, Gregg managed to strike him out to end the inning.
I'm sure Lou had a few choice words for him after that. Odds are, Gregg isn't going to be immediately demoted to middle relief, but he's probably got about two weeks to right his ship. Then again, Piniella is older and crankier than me. It may only be 2 more appearances before the change is made.
After opening the series with a 1-run loss that should have been a win, the Cubs took the next two games and are now 4-2 on the year. Two road series victories to kick off the year is a good start. Now they just have to prove they can win at home again.
Current Record: 4-2
Position in the NL Central: half a game behind St. Louis for the lead
Best Possible Record: 160-2
Worst Possible Record: 4-158
On Pace For: 108-54