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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Cubs Struggle in New York

Well, the Cubs didn't fare too well in their visit to New York. After a terribly disappointing defeat on Saturday in 11 innings 4-3, they again lost a one-run game 3-2 today. However, with the Giants loss today they remain a half-game up on the Giants and in the all-important loss column. Their destiny is still in their hands heading into the next series with the Reds.

Not much to say about Saturday's game although I was a bit surprised that Dusty brought in Ryan Dempster in the 8th inning. To me Dempster hasn't shown that he's anywhere near his 2000-2001 form. In addition, he has always had a tendency to walk batters (over 4.5 per 9 innings career) and so his high number of walks - now 12 in 17 and 2/3 innings - is not really suprising. That makes him particularly unsuited to a relief role in tight games. On Saturday he walked 2 batters both of whom scored on the Diaz homerun off of LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins is now just 24 of 32 in save situations, a horrible percentage. I've never been of the belief that some guys are "setup men" and some are "closers" but Hawkins' varying performance in those roles has got me wondering...

Of course, the game was actually lost earlier when Sammy Sosa left 8 men on base striking out 4 times and grounding into a double-play. He seems to have lost all confidence. I was hoping Dusty would pinch hit for him in the late innings but of course Dusty wouldn't do that to a veteran. At this point I'd prefer to see Ben Grieve in right field for a couple days (although he looked terrible in striking out today by kind of swinging at three pitches right down the middle). Either way Sosa needs to move up on the plate and be aggressive on the inside pitch. He falls away from everything middle-in pulling off the ball and of course can't hit anything on the outer half. I think you can trace this back to when he was beaned for the second time last year by the Expos Zach Day. Ever since then he flinches more on inside pitches and doesn't attack them. Normal aging has also played a role no doubt and his bat is slower now than a couple years ago.

Today's game was simply dull. Kerry Wood looked great after a first inning where he hit 2 batters and walked who knows how many to hand the Mets 3 runs. The offense once again looked pathetic managing just three hits. At least Sammy didn't strike out and even drove in a run with a weak ground ball. The most controversial decision of the day was that to allow Wood to bat for himself in the 7th inning trailing by a run. I think it was an ok decision given that Wood is a decent hitter and the state of the bullpen.

7 games to go....

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