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Cubs play for split
by alex ciepley
After losing two squeakers in a row over the weekend, the Cubs try to take the last game of the Reds-Cubs wraparound series Monday.
Saturday's game featured a great performance by Kerry Wood in a game Wood ended up losing in the ninth, 3-2. Perhaps predictably, Dusty Baker stayed with Wood an inning too long. And perhaps predictably, Wood rewarded Dusty's starting-pitcher-machismo-fetish by giving up some runs. If you only read the Chicago media reports, you'd think that the Cubs lost because of a phooey call on a 3-2 count to Adam Dunn. I dunno. I saw the pitches in question, and I thought the ump's calls were fine. What's remarkable, though, is that none of the papers seem to care that Baker sent Wood out to throw 131 pitches in his third start of the year. Not only did a fading Wood cost the Cubs the game on Saturday, but I'm expecting a tired Wood to be ineffective in his next start -- a pattern we saw several times last year.
Sunday's game was an offensive see-saw battle. The wind was blowing out, both pitching staffs gave up a lot of bombs, and the Cubs lost after another shaky Joe Borowski performance in the 10th inning. The bright side: Sosa looks freakin' awesome right now, scorching the ball all over the ballpark. Despite having been stuck on one homerun for a while, he had been hitting the ball hard (entering the weekend among the league leaguers in doubles), and now his doubles are turning into homeruns. Sosa's usually a slow starter, so his early season exploits are especially encouraging.
What's not encouraging, though, are Greg Maddux's first few outings. While I'm still not overly concerned about Maddux, he's having issues: his control (9 walks in 15 2/3 innings) has abandoned him and he's not getting grounders. His groundball/flyball ratio currently sits at 1.21, well below his career average of 2.44, and he's getting hurt because of it. Those extra flyballs have already contributed to five homeruns allowed. For comparison's sake, in 1994 Maddux allowed four homeruns... in 202 innings.
Now, I think Maddux can and will still get it all together this season, and I look at the second and third innings of today's game for a bit of encouragement. In the second frame, Maddux retired Jason LaRue, Wily Mo Pena, and Paul Wilson on a total of five pitches: two pop outs and a three-pitch strikeout. Similarly in the third, Maddux got three outs on five pitches, with a harmless Ken Griffey, Jr. single thrown in. These are the types of Maddux innings I'm expecting more of in the future. But Maddux needs to start keeping the ball in the park and on the ground, or the Cubs' big winter signing is going to go all Jose Guzman bad.
Matt Clement takes on Jimmy Haynes on Monday, with a start time of 1:20 PM CT. I'm tired of these one-run nail biters. How 'bout a 7-0 romp?