So far in 2011, the Mets have been just as disappointing as the Cubs. Johan Santana hasn't thrown a pitch; David Wright is injured; Jason Bay is hitting .230; and Mike Pelfrey, who won 15 games last year, has a 5.37 ERA this year. All of these players are part of a $120 million payroll, just $5 million less than the Cubs'. And the day before their series with the Cubs began, word hit that team owner Fred Wilpon had fired a few shots at his own team in an interview, saying--among other gems--that the Mets are a "shitty team."
The Cubs came out firing as well, winning game one of the series 11-1. "Hey," said the Cubs and their fans, "this is a team we can actually beat!"
After the Cubs put up another crooked number in the first inning on Wednesday, things were brightening on the North Side despite the daunting weather making its way toward Wrigley. But as the skies grayed, Casey Coleman made Cubs fans blue as he was unable to make it out of the second inning. The Cubs offense went into shutdown mode from there, and a 7-4 loss ensued.
Yesterday's game was a big one--at least to the degree that games can be big for fifth place teams. Win and this homestand against subpar opponents is off to a good start; lose and ... oh, man, the Cubs can't even beat these guys?
Through 2.5 innings, it didn't look good. The Cubs were playing a Little League game as they committed three errors and had a runner picked off. It also looked like the offense was going to knuckle under against a knuckleballer for the second time in four games--Sunday's 5-1 loss to Tim Wakefield marked the only time in the last nine games that the Cubs didn't score at least four runs.
But R.A. Dickey left the game with an injury, and the offense awoke. They banged out 17 hits and nine runs, giving them 60 runs in their last 10 games. Zambrano pitched as he has all year--solidly if not spectacularly. Big Z seems to be pitching to contact this year: he has yet to walk more than three batters in a game (he did so six times in 10 starts last year), and he has the lowest K/9 rate of his career at 5.9. The strategy has also resulted in the highest hit rate of his career: 8.6/9 innings. His ERA is just mediocre, but he leads the staff with five wins.
The Cubs have returned to what appears to be their preferred position this season: four games below .500. Next up will be the Pirates, who have lost three in a row and nine of thirteen. They took two of three against the Cubs to begin the season.