Cubs fans who forgot about last year’s team were quickly reminded this weekend at Wrigley Field as the North Siders dropped two of three to the Cincinnati Reds. The only difference from last season came from the Cubs’ new manager, Lou Piniella, who showed un-Dusty Baker-like emotions by yelling at a reporter for asking an idiotic question of what went wrong after an embarrassing pitching meltdown on Friday.
The first game of the series featured a 5-0 cushion for the Cubs, which evaporated quickly after starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano couldn’t retire a batter in the fifth and left the game after giving up four runs to the Reds. Will “40-foot Curveball” Ohman wouldn’t fare much better than the Venezuelan, failing to retire a batter he faced and walking in two more runs. The Reds would go on to win 6-5 in a 2006-like anemic offensive performance could not overcome a simple one-run deficit with plenty of time left.
After the game, manager Lou Piniella used the post-game press conference to rip into a reporter and Will Ohman in the first of what should be many tirades this season. Piniella then went onto the field after everyone left Wrigley and proceeded to rip out each base and throw them at the new Underarmour ads in the outfield, cursing at himself for accepting the Cubs job.
Saturday’s game featured another big lead for the Cubs behind Rich Hill, who only allowed three hits over seven innings of work. The bullpen surprised many, including Bob Howry himself, who looked forward to blowing the lead.
“I saw that seven-run lead and I thought to myself, ‘I know I can blow this game better than Carlos and Will did yesterday?’ but it didn’t happen,” Howry said. “Scott Eyre and I have a bet on who will finish April with the highest ERA, so I was disappointed I didn’t give up any runs. Looks like I’ll owe him those 20 Big Macs.”
The game looked un-2006-like when Cesar Izturis successfully executed a suicide squeeze in the second. Derrek Lee would have a big inning in the seventh in which he drove in three runs on a bases clearing double, continuing his hot start to the season.
Sunday, the Cubs were handcuffed by the performance of Reds starter Kyle Lohse, a pitcher whose name is only recognizable by less than half of his fellow teammates on the Cincinnati roster. Ted Lilly, who surrendered the Reds’ lone and eventual winning run to Brandon Phillips, threw six innings and only gave up two hits.
The southpaw would be denied his second win on the season thanks in part to a trifecta of offensive ineffectiveness by Jacque Jones, Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett in the sixth. Despite having runners at the corners with no outs, none of them could drive in a single run. The Cubs lost the final game of the series to the Reds 1-0.
Piniella didn’t lose his temper after the loss, but came up with another way he feels will motivate the team to execute with runners in scoring position in the future.
“I’m going to take a scene from the movie ‘Major League,’ but get a big cardboard cut-out of Richard Simmons instead,” Piniella said. “Every time we lose a game, I’m going to reveal a little piece of Simmons’ body to my players. That should motivate them enough for them not to play like this. After all, what person in their right mind would want to see Richard Simmons completely naked?”
Number of the weekend: 0
The number of starts made by Cubs outfielder Matt Murton this weekend in favor of Cliff Floyd.