It was a frustrating end to a frustrating homestand for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The bullpen wasted another good start from Ryan Dempster (see season game 2 in 3-2 loss to Braves in Atlanta) as Carlos Marmol blew his 1st save of the season. Dempster worked 7 2/3 amazing innings until he ran into a little trouble in the 8th inning. After walking Michael Bourn to put 2 men on the 8th inning with 2 out (after 120 pitches), Manager Lou Pinella opted to go with closer Carlos Marmol to end the threat in the 8th. Despite giving up an RBI single to Jeff Keppinger, he did strike out Pedro Feliz to preserve the 2-1 Cubs lead. But Marmol had a mental lapse in the 9th inning giving up a single to Hunter Pence and a game-tying double to Geoff Blum that sent the game into extra innings. In the 10th inning, Sean Marshall allowed the winning run to score after a lead-off double by Jason Michaels and a sacrifice fly by Pedro Feliz.
Just like that, the Astros – who came into the series against the Cubs with 1 win in 9 tries – had scored 1 run in each of the 8th, 9th and 10th innings to pull off the improbable road win and clinch their first series win in 2010. Not good, not good at all.
Seems like the same old story through 2 weeks of the season. Good starting pitching wasted by bad bullpen work and poor hitting. The Cubs offense managed just 2 runs and 7 hits and 3 walks off of Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez and 3 relievers. Marlon Byrd had 3 of the Cubs hits, but is still hitting just .244 early on. Geovany Soto seems to have found his groove a little bit, notching 2 hits to increase his batting average to .308. But the team is still not getting any clutch hitting and very little production from the middle of the lineup.
With the 3-3 homestand, the Cubs have started the season with a 5-7 record. They are already 3 full games behind the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals and they have already lost 4 games in which they held the lead in the 7th inning or later. Until this team can figure out how to win the close games, it is going to continue to be a long and frustrating year for Cubs fans all around the country. GM Jim Hendry really needs to figure out a more veteran option for the bullpen very soon because the season could get away from this squad in a hurry.
The only good thing – the Cubs visit the 4-8 Mets for a 4-game series at CITI Field this week. The Mets even had to play a 20-inning game on Saturday, taxing their bullpen and having to use starter Mike Pelfrey to close the game (Pelfrey is still scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against the Cubs). If ever there was a team that the Cubs could find their way against, it would be the Mets. Randy Wells looks to help the Cubs stop their 2-game losing streak. He will square off against young lefty John Niese for the Mets. Stay tuned Cubs fans – a bad showing in New York could mean a Lou Pinella explosion very soon…