Just when you think that the Cubs have lost every way possible they go and gives us another disaster. At this point it seems as though the only thing that is holding the Cubs back, is the Cubs themselves. Travis Wood was outstanding in this one, as he has been so often this year, and yet again, somehow, the Cubs found a way to lose. After taking a late 2-0 lead on a clutch Scott Hairston home run the wheels fell of in the eighth. With two outs and two guys on it looked like the Cubs were going to get out of it, then the wind took over. Yonder Alonso, who had the day off until the eighth inning, hit a fly ball to right field, it turned into more of a pop up in short right field because of the wind. Julio Borbon, who made a spectacular catch to retire the previous batter charged in and called off Barney, then flat-out missed the ball, that allowed the Padres to score and make it 2-1, and extended the inning. That marked the end of the day for Wood, but not the end of the misery. Shawn Camp came in and Welington Castillo completed boxed the first pitch from Camp to allow the game tying run to score, not only was it a passed ball on Castillo, but he completely dogged it while “chasing” the ball down. The Padres runner didn’t break right away, and if Castillo hustles they have a great chance to get him at the plate, he didn’t, and when the dust finally settled the Padres led 4-2 and the Cubs were done. Yet again, a series the Cubs should have won, ends in a split, so very frustrating.
At The Plate – The familiar issues were there once again for the Cubs as they tallied nine hits in this one but could only score twice as they were o-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Scott Hairston had the big blow for the Cubs, a two run homer in the seventh that looked like it would be the difference. Hairston finished the day going 1-for-3 with two RBI’s, said home run, and a run scored. Welington Castillo at least had a solid day at the plate going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
On The Mound – For the second straight game the Cubs starting pitching was the story, or should have been the story as Travis Wood was brilliant. Wood carried a perfect game through four and two-thirds, giving up a hit to Kyle Blanks with two outs in the fifth. Wood ended up going 7.2 innings giving up three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out three, and was tagged with the loss, mind numbing. Shawn Camp was charged with an earned run, and didn’t retire anyone as he walked the only batter he faced. James Russell didn’t have it today either as he gave up the difference making hit in two-thirds of an inning. Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless ninth inning, he hit a batter, and gave up a hit, but kept the Padres off the scoreboard.
Up Next – The Cubs welcome the Reds to Wrigley for a three game weekend set. Carlos Villanueva will get the ball for the Cubs in game one and the Reds will counter with Mike Leake, first pitch scheduled at 1:20 PM CST, weather permitting.
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Not bad at all for a guy that was acquired in a deal that many people forgot about because it was well before the trade deadline, and the madness that followed. But Justin Germano has quietly made a name for himself in the Cubs rotation, and if he continues to pitch like he did today he will have a future on this team. Germano earned his second win of the season going 6.1 innings giving up two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out six. A couple starts back Germano got 14 runs from his offense, today he got seven, he must be the lucky charm the offense has been searching for. I know that David DeJesus really likes when Germano is pitching as he was amazing today, having easily his best game as a Cub. DeJesus was 4-for-4 at the plate with two home runs, he came in with only two on the whole season. He finished the day with three RBI’s, a walk, and two runs scored, quite the day for the Cubs lead-off man. Brett Jackson also turned in a solid performance at the plate going 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, an RBI, and a run scored. It was great to see that as he has been struggling, so has Starlin Castro and he responded today as well going 3-for-4 with his 12th home run of the season and two RBI’s. The Cubs have an off day tomorrow as they will travel to Cincinnati for a weekend series that includes a double header on Saturday.
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Lets go back to Monday night with Carlos Marmol on the mound and the Cubs up by two in the eighth, Marmol put the first two hitters of the inning on and up stepped Freddie Freeman with runners on first and second. Freeman lined
a ball up the middle that was caught easily by Castro behind the second base bag. The Cubs proceeded to get out of the inning and win the game. Besides the obvious answer, why was this play so important? In years past that is a base hit and the Braves continue to threaten, probably tie the game, and possibly take the lead. Castro being where he was to make the catch shows me the Cubs are actually beginning to look at player tendencies and spray charts a little more than they had in years past. I know at times putting a shift on might come back to hurt you, but players’ tendencies usually don’t lie. As in the case Monday the defensive positioning of Castro went a long way in the Cubs winning the game. Lets fast forward a day and bring Freddie Freeman back up to the plate. Freeman once again hit the ball on the screws only for the ball to be caught routinely by Castro in back of second base. Freeman would come up again later and line a ball that Dempster would catch, just a guess, but if that ball got by him I would think that Castro would have been there to make that play too.
It seems like a little thing, but organizationally it is a component that was not there previously. Did they shift in past years, yes, but that was on the players that get the shift put on them league wide. This year the Cubs defense is moving with each hitter because they know what his tendencies are and they can position themselves properly, which should give them an advantage. The new Cubs regime has obviously placed a greater emphasis on this part of the game and it has already and will continue to play a big role in this team getting better.
A lot has been made about the Cubs re-dedication, or should I say dedication to the defensive side of the game this Spring, but is it just all talk? I know it’s early, but the numbers suggest that maybe the Cubs are on to something. Through three spring training games last year the Cubs committed a whopping nine errors, this year, one. The typical excuse used by many, including the coaching staff last year was that it was early, and mistakes will happen. Well, maybe that’s why that coaching staff, well most of it, is now unemployed. Ballplayers are ballplayers, and typically most of them learn the fundamentals at a very early age, that doesn’t mean that those players shouldn’t continue to practice them. Half the battle with defense is a players desire to actually field a ball the correct way, for years Alfonso Soriano was allowed to hop when making catches. Aramis Ramirez was allowed to ole balls left and right, and there was no consequence, more importantly it never changed, those days are over.