Friday, April 10, 2009

The new Cardinals

The Brewers are the new Cardinals. Sure, the Beermakers-Cubs rivalry has been building up steam for a few years now, and really became a marquee (not Marquis) match-up last year. But, losses to the Brewers have somehow always made me feel: "Well, at least it wasn't the Cardinals."

No more. Today's 4-3 loss to the Brewers--even though it's just the fourth game of the season and the Cubs are now 2-2--took a lot out of me, and made me realize how much the losses to the Brewers hurt. And it wasn't just the bottom-9th comeback to tie and win by the Brew Crew. A pretty good pitching duel between Rich Harden and Braden Looper early on netted Harden 10 strikeouts, but had him losing 2-1, with one of the runs unearned and derived from a 1st inning error by Ryan Theriot.

The Cubs moved ahead in the 6th inning on a 2-run homer by Koyie Hill, subbing for the injured Geovany Soto. In the epically-long bottom of the 7th inning, 3 different Cubs pitchers were used to walk to Brewers batter and hit another before Carlos Marmol finally shut things down. Yet, the early appearance by Marmol seemed like a bad omen (Over the three final innings, the Cubs pen would walk 5 batters.) Lou Piniella turned to Luis Vizcaino in the 8th, but needed closer Kevin Gregg to come in and get the last out of the inning.

In the 9th, Gregg got the first batter to ground out, but looked shaky against the second man, walking him on a pitch that bounced about 8 feet in front of the plate, a pitch that Hill would later take the blame for. Next batter: Rickie Weeks, of the swing-and-hope-it's-a-fastball school of hitting. Weeks, who had an uncharacteristically great day in the field up to that point, got what he wanted.

Gregg, perhaps over-compensating for the previosu walk, grooved it down the middle, and Weeks pounded it over Alfonso Soriano's head in left. It seemed like a bad choice of pitch by Gregg against a notorious free-swinger, though Weeks had the count in his favor, so that makes for a pretty tough call. The thing that sort of bugs me a little bit more is we saw another late reaction and pitiful attempt by Soriano to reach the ball hit by Weeks. He seemed to be playing fairly deep, and the baseball textbook would likely say that in that situation (runner on 1st, up by 1 run, bottom of the 9th) you want to play deep to stop a double. So, what happened? Was it hit so hard, Soriano could do nothing but wave lamely? Was the sun, coming through the window wall of Miller Park on the 1st base side, a factor in his ability to see the ball?

Maybe I'm being tough on Al-So, but he seems to land in the middle of these types of situations. I'm willing to think I'm over-reacting right now, and that it's entirelly possible I'll cool off about this later. But, I think I now hate losing to the Brewers more than anybody.

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