Thursday, July 19, 2007

That was weird

Ted Lilly is very quietly now 10-4.

The Cubs hung on in a wild and wacky game to take three of four from the San Francisco Giants and stay within three and a half games of the division lead. But, exactly how wild was the game, you ask?

Jacque Jones collected four hits on the day, but that doesn't even make the top five. Starting from the top of the first inning, there were signs that this game was going to be strange.

Hell, even before the game, we traded Cesar Izturis to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later.

Ted Lilly took 21 pitches to complete a 1-2-3 first inning, including 12 foul balls hit by San Francisco's first three batters. Then, in the bottom of the first inning, Alfonso Soriano doubled on a two-hopper that got passed third baseman Pedro Feliz but stopped before reaching Bonds in the outfield. A sacrifice bunt by Ryan Theriot was going to put Soriano at third, but a throwing error by Giants' pitcher Matt Morris brought home the first run of the game.

A few batters later, Ramirez's single to right field scored Theriot and a wild throw home by Frandsen allowed Ramirez to get into scoring position. Despite Ramirez coasting into second, Molina unraveled a wild throw (the third Giants' error that inning) allowing Ramirez to advance to third and Ward to score.

In the top of the second inning, the game didn't get any less weirder. A popup about 30 feet away from home plate dropped untouched while Ward injured himself trying to catch it. It was ruled a hit.

In the bottom of the third inning, Floyd got injured on a collision with the pitcher at first base and had to leave the game, but not before scoring all the way from second base on a passed ball. It was a weird passed ball, too. The pitch went through Molina's glove and hit his mask before it bounded away. Molina couldn't find it, so Morris actually ended up fielding it near his on-deck circle.

The injuries forced DeRosa into the game at first base and Pagan in right field. With Lee serving his suspension, this meant that the Cubs were down to two position players left on the bench before the fourth inning even began. That was the reason why Lilly hit for himself in the fifth inning.

After the game, Piniella told Lilly that he was going to be lifted before the sixth inning, but got an at-bat in the bottom of the fifth inning anyway. With the bases empty and two outs, Lilly singled up the middle, stole second, and scored what ended up being the difference-making run.

Also, Ryan Theriot had a check swing groundout that advanced Soriano from first to second that everyone thought was a bunt. And, the Cubs also turned a 5-6-3 groundout.

For the Giants, Barry Bonds hit two homeruns and drove in six, despite a 20mph wind blowing straight in. Bengie Molina also pierced the wind with a homerun of his own. Fortunately, that wasn't enough.

In what the weirdest game of the season, though, Cubs' relievers Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry remained consistent. Tossing the last 2 1/3 innings without giving up a run, the two sealed the series and game victory. The bullpen really has turned things around; that's a good sign.

The events of the weird game open the door to speculation for a lot of roster moves. Derrek Lee is in the middle of his suspension, so the Cubs are already down a player. With Daryle Ward day-to-day and Floyd's status uncertain, the Cubs are essentially playing the game with 22 players. After using 5 relievers on Thursday, going down to 11 pitchers doesn't seem like an option.

Ryan Dempster is expected to return from the disabled list before Friday's game. He's not exactly a fresh arm either; Dempster threw an inning of relief with the Iowa Cubs in a rehab game. The Cubs do have versitility; DeRosa, Theriot, and Fox can play multiple positions, so that should make life easier for Lou Piniella. I would expect the lineup tomorrow to be similar to the lineup the Cubs had in the fourth inning.

I could speculate about the roster moves, but the last two times I've tried to guess the roster move, I was wrong. The obvious decision would be to option both Petrick and Gallagher for Dempster and another versitile position player, but I'd like to see something done with Scott Eyre.

One thing is certain though. This is a completely new ballclub. In the first two months of the season, this club would've found some way to lose this game.

In late May, I made a post jokingly putting out the "winning formula," but the roster right now isn't that far off. Youngsters like Theriot, Fontenot, and Koyie Hill are right in the middle of things bringing conributions to this team. They're trying and they're winning.

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