despite some good pitching over the weekend, the cubs managed to get swept in saint louis, sending their record to 54-76.
friday's matchup saw young juan mateo scatter ten hits and a walk over five innings, somehow yielding just two runs. the cub offense, however -- abysmal in an epic sense all season long -- couldn't threaten jeff suppan, ron flores and jason isringhausen, who combined to shut out the cubs. that is the 13th time this season, for those keeping track of such things, that the cubs have been skunked.
rich hill took his turn on saturday and turned out his most impressive performance yet -- seven innings on 93 pitches, allowing four hits and no walks, being touched only by a gary bennett homer. this page continues to expect big things from hill, but on this day chris carpenter was better. he completely stymied the cub offense yet again -- one run on two hits in eight complete -- and roster trash roberto novoa, on in the ninth to extend his team-leading relief innings count, also extended his team-worst relief runs allowed. consider that, despite having pitched essentially the same number of innings as bob howry, novoa has allowed 43 runs to howry's 27 -- 60% more.
howry's runs allowed at the end of saturday had been just 23, but bennett's heroics continued on sunday at his expense with a walkoff grand slam to end the series. the pitching yesterday wasn't in the starting -- iowa callup and 40-man-roster-newbie les walrond was tagged for six runs in 2.2 innings -- but in the bullpen, where david aardsma, mike wuertz, novoa and will ohman combined for five and a third shutout innings to get to the ninth. neither walrond nor howry were helped by the defense -- what cub pitcher is? -- as jacque jones committed one of the more laughable errors of the year to help undermine walrond, turning a scott rolen rbi single in the first into a round tripper. aramis ramirez figured prominently for the second day in a row in the game-losing run with an inning-extending mental error, refusing to throw out juan encarnacion at first on a routine grounder.
in the end, it was just more of the same from one of the least impressive cub squads in memory -- little offense, little defense and not nearly enough pitching to overcome the lack of the former two. the pace is now 95 losses, and this writer for one wouldn't be surprised to see a charge at 100 before september is out. it isn't that the cubs play a lot of good teams; it's just that the cubs are a very bad team. it is notable, perhaps, that they today open against pittsburgh, the first of seven games between the cubs and bucs in the next ten. as bad as they are, pittsburgh is better than the league-worst northsiders in run differential -- (-101) for the bucs against (-119) for the cubs -- and pittsburgh's lefty-heavy rotation has given the cubs fits.
something could be settled over the next two weeks about just who really is the worst team in the national league. this page is just bursting with anticipation.