another wild and wooly weekend has concluded for the chicago cubs, but precious little seems to have changed in the overall view.
the cubs and atlanta braves split in bizarre fashion. friday saw a streaking alfonso soriano destroy the braves to the tune of three home runs, fostering a 9-1 win that seemed to portend a productive series.
that view was bolstered when saturday saw ben sheets -- now healthy again following soft tissue problems last season and assembling a brilliant year for milwaukee -- denied a well-deserved win as the volatile francisco cordero refused to close the door on a three run lead in the ninth.
but it also saw the braves retaliate against soriano, with tim hudson plunking him with the game's first pitch. soriano came around to score in a four-run first, but what followed was the kind of outing jason marquis is going to put up more often than anyone would like and the cubs ended up losing 9-5. the game may one day be most notable for being sean gallagher's first major league outing.
with lou piniella running the cubs, few purpose pitches are probably going to go unreconciled -- and so, in spite of the obviousness of the situation, ted lilly took advantage of his first inning to plunk edgar renteria -- benches cleared though there was no brawl, and lilly found himself summarily ejected on the day following a 1 2/3 inning start by marquis, a time when the cubs could badly have used a deep start. the bullpen was instead drained again, but the cubs managed to hold a solid 5-2 lead going into the eighth. one of the few pitchers who had gone unused through saturday and sunday was ryan dempster -- so he trotted out to gather what looked to be a two-inning save to take three of four in turner field.
a devastating loss ensued, and dempster -- who began the year in stunning fashion on the wings of an absurdly low babip -- has now seen his season earned run average climb to 4.08 after posting a 5.73 era in 12 may appearances and now 5.40 in five june outings. someday, this writer is certain, the cubs will discover the fact that dempster isn't really a very good pitcher -- that, in fact, he's pretty bad; it is just as certain, however, that the realization will come much too late to be of any use. in the meantime, it seems that turnabout remains, as ever, fair play.
with the brewers salvaging a win in the 12th down in texas, the cubs find themselves the same six games out that they were seven weeks ago, further underlining just how difficult it truly is to close such a gap.
given a thoroughly exhausted bullpen, the club is being asked to come home from a late-night finish in atlanta to make up an april rainout against houston tonight in chicago -- the 15th of 21 consecutive game days. three-game sets with seattle and san diego await.