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by Alex Ciepley
During the bottom of the seventh in last night's game, Pat Hughes, fresh from a warbling of "Take Me Out...", mentioned in the broadcast booth that the Cubs have "been in" almost every game this year. Maybe I've become immune to the dull pain of bleeding therapy that comes with watching a team lose its fair share of close games, but I hadn't particularly noticed this trend.
Taking a rather liberal approach to being "in" a game, it appears that Hughes is pretty much right. There are only three games I can find in which the Cubs entered the late innings without a realistic chance of coming back and winning.
April 13th: Padres 8, Cubs 3
A Wood stinker, Kerry allowed 4 runs in the first, a home to Brian Giles in the second, and a couple more in the 7th before exiting.
April 6th: D'Backs 8, Cubs 3
Ryan Dempster's first start as a Cub wasn't pretty. He gave up seven runs in fewer than four innings, and the Cubs didn't muster much all night.
May 1st: Astros 9, Cubs 3
The Cubs actually were in this game, until a Priortastic Meltdown in the fifth, when Houston tagged Prior for seven runs in what seemed like a few seconds. As an aside, Prior's ERA for the season, minus that one hellish inning, is 1.80.
Having only had a couple games that have gotten out of hand isn't particularly unusual; both the Cardinals and Brewers, for example, have only been "out" of games a handful of times this season. Still, it brought up a couple thoughts that I wanted to take a glance at, since one might think that a team that was in most of its games would probably have a better record than the Cubs' 20-22.
Random Thought: The Cubs' starters have been better than advertised, keeping the games close early.
Random Response: The starters' ERA is above average, at 4.07, but not spectacular--the starting corps rank 6th in the National League in ERA.
Random Thought: Despite being "in" most games, the Cubs have a losing record because the bullpen has been as bad as advertised.
Random Response: The Cubs relievers rank higher in the league than their starting pitching does with a 3.92 ERA, good for 5th in the league. The 'pen is, however, a horrendous 9-for-17 in save opportunities.
Random Thought: The Cubs score most of their runs early, and the offense hasn't been able to tack on runs late.
Random Response: Maybe there is some truth to this. The Cubs have scored 133 runs in innings 1-6 (8th in the league), but only 50 runs from the seventh inning on (14th in the league). Think a bench which features Jose Macias as a key player might have something to do with that?
Random Thought: The Cubs are gluttons for punishment, and simply love being "in" games that they will, often enough, go on to lose. It's the team's cosmic fate, its lot in life, its Greater Meaning.
Random Response: Naw.
Pat Hughes' instinct seems correct; the Cubs have been "in" most games this year. But despite a handful of dandy wins in the recent week, it sure hasn't felt like the Cubs have been "in" much of anything this year. They're already seven games back in the division, and at times seems like a team that's misplaced its mission statement. Can they get back "in" it, not just in the games here or there, but within their own division?