Stop me if you've heard this one before...
The Cubs kick and scratch their way to a few runs and take a lead into the 8th inning. They turn their game over to their veteran bullpen arms Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol and....
Well, you know the rest.
The Cubs lose this game 7-4 after Matt Garza got the Cubs off to a 4-2 lead going into the 8th inning. The Cubs got some clutch hits from Reed Johnson and Joe Mather. Garza, except for giving up a 2-run HR to Adam LaRoche followed by a temper tantrum, was cruising along.
There can't possibly be any silver linings here, can there?
- Well, there's the Garza outing for one. He was throwing mid 90s and showed pretty good command of his entire repertoire. The umpire pretty much took away the low strike, making it tough for both pitchers on a day when the wind was blowing out. In fact, a non-strike call on a knee-high, full count pitch to Ian Desmond led to a walk and ultimately gave LaRoche a chance to come to bat -- and that's what I thought was what Garza was so upset about. Instead, he said he was angry about the location on the pitch to LaRoche. It didn't seem all that bad. It was a 95 mph four-seamer that rode in on LaRoche but somehow he turned on it and connected. Those things happen. The good thing is that Garza regained his composure and finished strong.
- Regarding Garza's anger, let's keep in mind that he did cool off and didn't take it back to the mound with him. He also didn't direct it to any of his teammates. He was upset at himself. This isn't a Carlos Zambrano situation.
- Starlin Castro played excellent defense today. He made two outstanding plays where the runner beat the throw but Castro seems to have taken Sveum's suggestions to heart. On the first play, Castro made a full-extension dive to his right, snared the ball, got up quickly and fired a bullet over to first to nearly throw out Ian Desmond. On the second play, he charged the ball aggressively and threw across his body and nearly nabbed the runner at first. I didn't think he had a chance on either play, but he made them both very, very close.
- The Cubs showed pretty good plate discipline early in the game, especially when Gio Gonzalez was in the game. They drew 5 walks in all and worked the count often. They got into the Nats bullpen early but unfortunately the relief staff was up to the task. They shut the Cubs down when the Cubs had a chance to break the game open, so they deserve some credit for that.
- Rafael Dolis had a quick efficient 8 pitch 1-2-3 inning. He was clocked at 95 mph.
There were even some positives with Wood and Marmol....really.
- With Wood, it was encouraging to see him bounce back and throw strikes. He got two quick outs and then Danny Espinosa had the AB of the game. He worked the count full and fouled off pitch after pitch, then took a low, outside fastball from Wood -- not a bad pitch -- and went the other way with it, putting it in the LF seats. On the next AB, Wood broke Ryan Zimmerman's bat with a fastball riding in on his fists but somehow the ball looped over the infield for a single. That was followed by a solid single and then Wood gave way for Marmol...and then more bad things happened.
- The positive with Marmol was his velocity. He was at 94-96 early on before losing a little velo as the inning went on. While it didn't produce results it does give some hope that he can turn things around. It could also help allay concerns with teams who might consider trading for him later on. If the arm is still there, it's always possible the Cubs can find a team with a scout or pitching coach who thinks they can "fix" Marmol.
Not much to say except it's another tough game and there's 160 to go. Things have to improve, don't they?