A League of Her Own

Thursday Headlines/Open Thread

Sunset over Gateway Arch and Mississippi River

Hoffpauir saved the Cubs from back-to-back shutouts... starting role to ensue?
Hoffpauir's pinch-RBI single off Ryan Franklin snapped the Cubs' 17-inning scoreless streak in the top of the ninth before Reed Johnson struck out with the tying run on third to end it. Chris Carpenter pitched five shutout innings for the win in his first start off the disabled list, while Ryan Dempster suffered his third loss in six decisions despite seven strong innings. The admission by Piniella that he was considering benching Lee, who is hitting .230 after a 1-for-4 night, was a first for the Cubs manager. But Lee said the Cubs have been "impressive" considering they have a 21-17 record despite some struggling hitters. "Let's not blow it out of proportion," Lee said. "It's two games. Carpenter is the nastiest pitcher I've faced all year. No excuses. We're professionals. We've got to score, but just don't blow it out of proportion."
Cubs, how did you suck? Let Bruce Miles count the ways:
• Kosuke Fukudome reached third base with two outs in the first, but Milton Bradley grounded out to Albert Pujols. • Geovany Soto stood on second with two outs in the second, but Ryan Dempster grounded to Pujols. • Ryan Theriot sliced a one-out double in the third, but Fukudome flied out and Derrek Lee was caught looking at a Chris Carpenter curveball. The Cubs didn't deliver another hit until Aaron Miles' pinch-hit single leading off the eighth. Miles, predictably, never got the chance to budge from first. Carpenter, making his first appearance since straining an oblique muscle swinging a bat April 14, finessed his way through 5 innings to earn his second win since the 2006 World Series.
So which starting pitcher was the victim last night?
The offense's struggles wasted Ryan Dempster's third terrific start in May. He allowed just 6 hits and 2 intentional walks in his 7 innings but fell victim to St. Louis small ball.
And some fun from the last time the Cubs were shutout back-to-back:
The Cubs waited until two outs in the ninth to score, avoiding the franchise's first consecutive shutouts since May 4-5, 2006. Some immortals in those lineups? Juan Pierre, Freddie Bynum, Todd Walker (batting cleanup), Jacque Jones and Neifi Perez.
Lou's confounded by the lack of offense:
''Until we get some of these batting averages up, forget how many runs we're averaging,'' Piniella said before the Cubs took the field against returning Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter. ''You don't score runs with smoke and mirrors.'' Half of the eight hitters in the Cubs' lineup Wednesday entered with averages of .229 or less -- and that's down from five the night before because rookie Bobby Scales (.333) was at second base instead of Aaron Miles (.183). ''You always have a few people struggling,'' Piniella said, ''but not four or five in a lineup. You could have four or five struggling in a 13-man [position roster], but we're talking about guys that are regulars. So when that improves -- and it will -- then you'll see our offense pick up and do things with a lot more consistency.''
And what of Milton Bradley?
''Let's just hope he gets better soon,'' Piniella said. Most of the hitters took extra batting practice Wednesday afternoon, although Bradley wasn't one of them. ''He hits enough, believe me, in the cage and everything else,'' said Piniella, who said that's not an issue with any of the slumping hitters.
And to finish things up, a glimmer of hope for the future:
Third baseman Josh Vitters entered Wednesday's game at Class A Peoria with five straight three-hit games. The 19-year-old Vitters, the third overall pick of the 2007 draft, is hitting .371 in 35 games with seven home runs and 21 RBIs. Although San Diego was trying to acquire Vitters over the winter as part of the proposed deal for Jake Peavy, it's unlikely the Cubs will trade him.



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