I hate to admit this, but the Cubs actually played better than I thought they would against the Reds in Cincinnati this weekend. They were going up against 3 pitchers that have given them fits in the past — Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Travis Wood. Plus, they were coming off of a 3-game losing streak, the perfect time for the Cubs to go into a nose dive and perform miserably against a good Reds team. While Friday night’s 7-1 loss was entirely expected, I was surprised that the Cubs stayed in both games over the weekend, splitting the Saturday and Sunday contests.
There really weren’t too many highlights, but here’s a quick re-cap:
Cubs 3, Reds 2 Saturday night –
Randy Wells continues to be an enigma in 2010. Sometime he looks great like he did on Saturday night and other times he looks lost out there as his 6-12 record indicates. He limited the Reds to just 6 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings. He gave up a Joey Votto home run and an RBI single in the 6th inning, but otherwise limited the Reds scoring chances throughout his outing. Bronson Arroyo limited the Cubs offense to just 6 hits in 7 innings, but he made 2 costly mistakes. He served up Xavier Nady’s solo homer in the 2nd inning and then Kosuke Fukudome’s game-winning 2-run homer in the 5th inning.
One other pitching positive – the bullpen preserved the 3-2 lead handed to them by Wells. James Russell worked a scoreless 7th inning while striking out the side. Andrew Cashner worked a perfect 8th as did Carlos Marmol in the 9th inning as he picked up his 24th save. We know what we have in Marmol, but once again, Cashner and Russell could potentially be good pitchers at the major league level for years to come. It’s just a matter of getting these kids and building their confidence by getting them in games in the right situations. Let’s hope Manager Mike Quade can continue to do that the rest of the year with these young pitchers so that they have the right mental attitude heading into the 2011 MLB schedule.
Cubs 5, Reds 7 Sunday afternoon – The Cubs squandered a great number of chances against Wood and Arthur Rhodes. The Cubs got 10 hits and 4 walks off of Wood, but only scored 3 times. You have to do better than that. A couple of typical bad Cubs moments — bases loaded in the 1st inning and only 1 out and the Cubs don’t score; Jeff Baker makes the 3rd out at 3rd base in the 2nd inning on Starlin Castro’s RBI single; & 2nd and 3rd and 1 out in the 5th inning and they only push across 1 run on a ground out. Kosuke Fukduome went from here to goat in just 1 short innings-time. He hit a game-tying 2-run home run off of Arthur Rhodes in the top of the 8th inning. Then in the bottom half of the inning, his fielding error in right field allowed Chad Heisey to score all the way from 1st base on Ramon Hernandez’s single. That was the difference in the game. Jeff Baker, Starlin Castro, Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady and Geovany Soto each had 2 hits in the loss.
Casey Coleman was back to his mediocre self after a really nice outing against the Nationals. He gave up 4 ER on 8 hits in 6 innings. But more importantly, he did not walk a batter. That is always a good sign for a young pitcher.
Now it is time for the Cubs to battle their 2010 nemesis in a 3-game set this week at Wrigley Field. The Pittsburgh Pirates come to town with their mouths watering for blood. Despite an overall record of 43-87 — the worst record in the entire major leagues, the Pirates have beaten the Cubs 9 out of 12 times this season — ouch! Look out Carlos Zambrano – you better bring your A-game tonight at the Friendly Confines.