It’s always amazing how 1 inning can foreshadow the outcome of a game. Ted Lilly’s 1st inning in Monday night’s 10-1 loss to the Phillies did just that. Lilly was not locating his pitches early on and got into a jam with a leadoff single by Jimmy Rollins and a double by Shane Victorino that put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. Not a good position to be in, especially with the heart of the Phillies lineup coming up in one of the best hitters’ park in baseball – Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia. But Lilly momentarily found the “right” stuff when he got Chase Utley to ground out to Derrek Lee on a great play by the 1st baseman and Ryan Howard to strikeout without the Phillies scoring any runs. It looked like Lilly was going to get out of the inning unscathed when he got 2 quick strikes on Raul Ibanez. But then that lack of focus came through again as Lilly served up a 3-run bomb to Ibanez that gave the Phils an early 3-0 lead. 3 innings later, Lilly had given up a total of 9 runs (7 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks, and the Cubs found themselves trailing 9-0.
Meanwhile, the Cub offense was lifeless. The team managed just 6 hits and 3 walks off of starter Rodrigo Lopez and reliever Chad Durbin. Ryan Theriot drove in the only Cubs run with a single in the 5th inning. Alfonso Soriano continued his hot hitting with 3 hits, but only 1 of them came with another player reaching base in the inning. Not good. Lopez has pitched well in his 3 starts in 2009 (he missed the entire 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery). Lopez is 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, but he is a .500 career pitcher with an ERA just under 5.00 (at 4.76) and a WHIP at 1.40. Give me a break.
We’ve seen this all before with this 2009 Cubs team. They have stretches where they win ball games that they should win (see the weekend series in DC where they won all 4 games against the worst team in baseball). But then they seem to play awful on national TV against good MLB teams and they seem to lack that energy and fight that can propel a team to victory even when they don’t play their best.
I’m expecting much of the same in the next 2 games (losses) for the Cubs in Philadelphia. The Phillies should have a field day with Rich Harden on Tuesday night – Harden has 5.06 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP and has already served up 16 home runs on the season. And then with the Cubs losing 2 in a row, and the pressure on Carlos Zambrano to shut end the losing streak in Wednesday’s afternoon finale, Big Z will try too hard and be over-juiced at the start. Something will go wrong – a Milton Bradley or Alfonso Soriano mis-play in the field – and the wheels will start to come off.
The Cubs will lose all 3 games in Philly and they’ll fall back to 47-45 on the season. Let’s just hope that the Astros can keep beating the Cards the next 2 days – even if the Astros jump the Cubs, at least they won’t fall further behind the Cards for 1st place in the NL Central…