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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cub-plete Game Shutout: Astros 4, Cubs 0

So far, my record with the Cubs in Chicago is 1-5, which leads me to wonder whether I should even bother coming out anymore. The only other time I've been out here was in 2005, when we saw the last two games of the Reds' series (the first a win, the second the other kind), and the first game of a four-game series with the 100-win Cardinals team, which the Cubs also lost; the Cubs finished a disappointing 79-83 that year, so the fact that they ended up with a split in the Cards set was impressive enough.

Yesterday's loss was front-page news on the Chicago Tribune, and who could blame them? Two shutouts in three games, and only the third series loss the Cubs have suffered since the break; it's not quite panic mode, not with this series ending a long stretch of uninterrupted games (their last day off was August 18), but the proximity to the postseason inspires nervousness.

Randy Wolf pitched a complete game shutout, something he has only accomplished eight times in his career, and the last one was over four years ago. He was helped numerous times by winds blowing steadily into the park from the outfield toward home plate; the Yahoo AP box score shows it as 12 MPH, but the big American flag on the main flagpole snapped almost straight out the whole night, and if you asked me, up where it counted the wind was more like 20-25 MPH. Helen counted about six to eight hard-hit, high flyballs hit by the Cubs that ended up in gloves around the warning track, and so even Wrigley Field weather conspired against the Cubs.

In fact, the only real scoring opportunity the Cubs had came in the fifth, after Ronnie Cedeño reached on a leadoff walk. Pushed to second on Ryan Dempster's second successful sac bunt of the night, Alfonso Soriano singled, and Cedeño made a mad dash to home plate, where he was gunned down by a fine throw by the 'Stros' left fielder, Ty Wigginton. Ryan Theriot flied out to center (another one of those warning-track shots), and that was that.

Oddly, considering the weather, Houston scored two of their four runs on a two-out homer to Wigginton, but the other two scored on singles as befit the weather. Ryan Dempster who had been all but unstoppable at home, took only his third loss at Wrigley, going 12-3 at Wrigley on the season.

The Cubs now have lost five straight, at times looking terrible; so far, they have lost only a game's lead on the Brewers thanks to a nearly equally bad stretch by that team. The bigger problem will be Carlos Zambrano's unknown shoulder problems, and whether the bullpen will hold up with the constant use it's seen of late, and the long stretches without days off. If ever even the most distant of postseason aspirants, the Dodgers, looked like they could trick their way into a World Series, this might be a year they could pull it off.

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