It wasn’t exactly the game’s elite matchup this weekend. In fact, with both clubs at, or near the bottom of their respective divisions, the chance at playing spoiler was out of the question. The Chicago Cubs were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in the previous series and hoped to string together as many wins as possible before being mathematically eliminated.
With the exception of the Houston Astros – who have already been eliminated – the Cubs have the fewest “relevant” games left with nine. Since the trade deadline, the Cubs are only 4-17.
The Cubs won Friday’s opener in rare form. They came from behind. Jeff Samardzija got off to a rocky start, allowing a run in each of the first three innings. It took 60 pitches for him to get into the fourth inning, but managed to string together the next four innings in only 39.
The bats were quiet early as well, only managing a walk until the fifth inning. Alfonso Soriano finally got the Cubs on the board with their first hit/run, sending a solo shot into right field. Not to be outdone, Welington Castillo followed suit after Starlin Castro flied out. For Soriano, it was his 23rd home run and 77th RBI.
The deficit remained one run until the eighth. Brett Jackson hit his 2nd dinger of the season and his first at Wrigley Field. Once the Cubs tied the score, the Colorado Rockies took off their cleats and put on their clown shoes.
Luis Valbuena doubled to left field and was singled home by Joe Mather. In what should have been a routine double-play, Mather was safe at second on a groundball by Josh Vitters when the Rockies second basemen decided “lackadaisical” was the best way to try and catch the ball. It wasn’t. The very next batter, Anthony Rizzo, reached on a throwing error by pitcher Matt Reynolds, with Mather scoring from third. The Cubs were unable to capitalize any further, however. Soriano flied out to right field and Vitters was thrown out at home while attempting to tag up.
As far as hustle goes, I’m not in a position to accuse anyone of not giving 100 percent. That being said, it’s exactly what I’m going to do. From where I sat, Vitters dogged it down the line. If he had gone hard, he could’ve made it. Granted, it’s better than him not tagging at all. But for how shaky the Cubs bullpen has been, especially in the closer role, insurance runs are gold.
Saturday saw Brooks Raley in his fourth Major League start and has continued to pitch well enough for victories. It looked as if he would get the win, with the Cubs grabbing an early 3-0 lead off Soriano singling and scoring on another Colorado fielding error and Jackson hitting a 2-run home run.
The comfort didn’t last long as the Rockies cut into the lead with a 2-run bomb of their own the next inning, and then tied the score with a solo shot in the top half of the sixth.
Teams need to take advantage of the aforementioned “clown shoes” occurrences. More or less, the Cubs and Rockies were both successful in doing so. Multiple errors giving the Cubs new life in the first game resulted in their comeback win. Saturday, all it took was a missed double play for the Rockies to pull out a win. Ideally, the fundamentals are executed. Thus, no mistakes to be taken advantage of. But, since this is the real world it’s likely that won’t happen.
Real world with real world problems. Like, for instance, pouring rain. The start of Sunday’s finale was delayed by just over two hours. Nonetheless, Chris Volstad was kept in the lineup as starting pitcher. Still in search of his first win since July 10th of last year, Volstad has had good and bad appearances. A combination of lack of run support and one or two disaster innings a start, his inconsistency ultimately led to time spent with AAA Iowa.
Today, he brought the “A” game. He scattered three hits over 6 2/3 innings and left with a 2-0 lead thanks to Darwin Barney’s two RBI. The Cubs added insurance in the eighth. Barney drew a walk to load the bases and Mather followed with a sac fly to left, followed by a wild pitch that led to another run. David DeJesus capped off the scoring with an RBI single, scoring Barney.
The Cubs’ young talent was making things happen. Castro, Rizzo, and Jackson went 5-7 with five walks. Shawn Camp also deserves credit for working out of a couple tight spots.
With rain coming down all game, it picked up during the final innings. By the time it reached the top of the ninth, the outfield was soaked and the warning track was practically mud. The umpires sent it into another rain delay, making Volstad wait just a little bit longer for his first win in 413 days. After a short delay and no end in sight for inclement weather, the game was called after eight complete innings.
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