Casey Coleman looked sharp in his 2nd major league start and the Cubs gave Mike Quade his 1st win as the Cubs skipper with an easy 9-1 win over the Nationals in Washington, DC.
Coleman worked into the 7th inning giving up just 1ER on 3 hits and 2 walks. Coleman wanted to make it through the full 7 innings, but he gave up a single and a double to start the inning and then an RBI ground out to Ivan Rodriguez which plated the Nationals only run. After Coleman walked Willie Harris to put 2 men on and only 1 out, Quade opted to go with Andrew Cashner to get him out of the jam. Cashner came through with a double play groundout to end the threat and then pitched a perfect 8th inning as well to give him his most efficient outing in a while. Hopefully both Coleman and Cashner take the positives from last night’s game and build some confidence before the end of the season. Guys like Coleman, Cashner, Diamond, Berg are the future of the Cubs pitching staff, so it would be great to see them finish strong after such a long and brutal 2010 campaign.
The bats also came to life for Quade. Quade didn’t waste any time making some immediate changes to Lou Pinella’s lineup. He moved Blake DeWitt into the leadoff spot (he has had a .392 on-base percentage since he joined the Cubs); he inserted Tyler Colvin back into the lineup in the 6-hole (Pinella inexplicably kept Colvin out of the lineup for most of the last homestand because he was in a hitting slump – gimme a break Lou – what Cubs hitter wasn’t in a hitting daze all season long?); and he dropped Alfonso Soriano into the 7-hole. Each move paid off.
DeWitt went 3 for 5 with 2 RBI’s and a home run. He is now hitting .284 on the season and looks to be a fixture opposite Starlin Castro in the middle of the infield.
Colvin had a 2-run single in the 3rd inning which increased the Cubs lead at the time to 3-0. He did end up striking out 3 times, however.
And Soriano went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI’s and a run scored. His 2-run triple in the 5th inning helped open up the game to 5-0.
Castro had 2 hits, Xavier Nady had 3 hits and 2 runs scored and Kosuke Fukudome had 2 more hits and an RBI after coming into the game for Marlon Byrd who was hit by a pitch on the hand. X-rays were negative, but he will likely miss a game or 2 to make sure he is fully healthy.
As for the end of the Lou Pinella era, it was a mixed back for the 67-year old manager. In his 1st season as Managers, he lead the team to an 85-77 record in 2007 and an NL Central Division crown. His club faced the #1 seed Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1st round of the playoffs, however, and his questionable early removal of Carlos Zambrano in the 7th inning of Game 1 of the series paved the way for the series sweep. The Cubs finished 97-64 in 2008. The Cubs had the best record in the National League during the regular season and another NL Central Division Crown. Hopes were high for a trip to the World Series and the unthinkable World Series, but the Cubs pitching and hitting deserted them as they were swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers in 3 games. The Cubs finished 83-78 in 2009. When Lou announced his departure after the game on Sunday, the team’s record was 51-74 through the first 125 games of the 2010 MLB schedule. Not the best way to leave his legacy, but it is what it is.
His best years were probably 2007 when he turned the team around after a horrendous start to the season. After a slow start, Pinella jump-started his team by getting tossed from a game by the 3rd base umpire in a May game. He also helped orchestrate the departure of disgruntled catcher Michael Barrett who got into an altercation with Carlos Zambrano. Barrett was clearly a disruption to the rest of the clubhouse and Lou didn’t want him around anymore. GM JIm Hendry worked a deal to move Barrett to the San Diego Padres, and after that the Cubs were one of the best teams in baseball through the final 2/3 of the season. Pinella helped lead them all the way to the division crown that season. In 2008, everything went right for the Cubs – great hitting, great pitching; lots of come-from-behind wins; lots of close wins, so to say that was his best year is probably an overstatement. When things go that right, there are usually other things going on other than the Manager. In 2009, even though the Cubs trailed the Cards by 7.5 games in the NL Central and the Rockies 8.5 for the wild card spot at the end of the season, Lou did an amazing job with his rag-tag bunch of players. Lou had no Aramis Ramirez for over a third of the season and he had to deal with the Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano nightmares for good chunks of the season as well. It was team that was falling apart at the seams and Lou did his best to keep it together, leading the c lub to a 3rd straight winning season – the 1st time that had been done since the organization had 6 straight winning seasons from 1967 through 1972. Lou kept the Cubs in contention until the end, even though the team had big problems getting clutch hits and winning close games – they were 16-22 in 1-run games in 2009. The year took a toll on him and that clearly carried over into the 2010 season. In 2010, the Cubs were just 28-38 at home and 24-35 on the road under Pinella. Even worse, the Cubs were a miserable 15-30 in 1 run games. Take a look at teams who have played around 44 1-run games in 2010 — and you can see how much better they fared than the Cubs – the lowly Royals are 23-24 in their 47 1-run games; the Rays are 22-22 in their 44 1-run games; even the 2 worst teams in baseball play better than the Cubs in 1-run games – the Pirates are 41-84 overall but 17-19 in 1-run games and the Orioles are 44-81 overall but 22-18 in 1-run games. When you can’t win close games and when you can’t come through with clutch hits on a regular basis, you are not going to win a lot of games. And that’s just what happened in 2010.
Well enough of my blabbering and statistics. I was planning on throwing in some Lou quotes, but maybe I will save that for tomorrow. Stay tuned…