Lou Piniella says he was looking for a "change in karma" after his bullpen walked 3 batters in a row against the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday night, so he sent pitching coah Larry Rothschild out to change pitchers. Personally, I think Lou was just fuming and didn't want to tear off the head of Neal Cotts in fron of thousands of fans. During last week's extra-innings loss to the Astros and Friday night's bullpen meltdown against the Brewers, Lou could be seen on TV in the dugout mouthing some very recognizable bad words. Forget Sweet Lou--Sour Lou is out early this year.
The karma did not change instantly for the Cubs, as new pen arrival Aaron Heilman gave up a single after the 3 walks that put the Brewers up 5-3, but it did change an inning later. Aramis Ramirez hit a solo HR to bring the Cubs within a run in the 8th, and in the top of the 9th and down to 2 outs, Alfonso Soriano was the hero. Hit blasted (literally) a 2-run HR after Reed Johnson had pinched a single. Soriano was one possible goat after Friday's loss, but again seems to show you has value just at the time when you (or its was just me) are ready to question him. Al-So has come up big the first week of the season... maybe he should bat clean-up (as Milton Bradley is hitting .063 this far).
The Cubs won 6-5, and it wasn't twice-bitten closer Kevin Gregg who finished the game. Carlos Marmol got the save, giving up a single, but facing down the toughest Brewers hitters to end it. Apparently, Lou doesn't want to change the karma too much, because he said Gregg will be back in the closer role Sunday if needed.
Other notes: Kosuke Fukudome has been fairly torrid--or at least better than expected. He was 2-5 with a HR yesterday, and apparently loves hitting against the Brewers (It was his 4th HR off Brewers pitching since his heroic debut as a Cub on Opening Day 2008.) Also, Carlos Zambrano was pretty darn good for the second game in a row, though his effort was squandered by the pen's collapse.
White Sox update: The Sox had a karma change, too, in the form of a heavweight pitcher thought to be wobbling toward retirement until recently. Bartolo Colon had vintage stuff, blanking the Minnesota Piranhas for 7 innings (giving them nothing to chew on), on the way to an 8-0 victory (a Colon blow-out, if you will, though I know you'd rather not).
The Sox also were effective for the first time this year in simply pushing runner after runner across the plate. When the starting line-up flashed on the TV at the beginning of the game, it certainly didn't look like that's what would be in store: It featured 3 new starters (Brent Lillibridge, Corky Miller and Wilson Betemit) and 2 others (Alexei Ramirez and Brian Anderson) who were hitless for 2009--5 guys with .000 batting averages.
But, Colon's workman-like pitching and the new shaken-up batting order seemed to bring some new karma. Lillibridge, leading-off, didn't have a hit, but was decent anyway, walking twice, stealling a base and showing the rest of the team how to execute a sacrifice bunt. Ramirez, "The Missile," finally took flight with his first 2 hits and first 2 RBI of the season. Even Miller had 2 RBI. It's doubtful the Sox batting order will continue to have the same names in place as it did yesterday, but the rag-tag group somehow broke the team-wide hitting slump.