it surely doesn't feel like it when they're having their hat handed to them by the worst team in the national league, but the cubs actually made some progress last night.
no thanks to their own efforts, though. now having not beaten the marlins for nine straight, the cubs could not contain miggy cabrera and could not touch the marlin bullpen over five and a third after chasing rookie danny barone. they get another chance this afternoon against scott olsen, and will send nervous steve trachsel to the mound.
instead the help came (again) from ned yost. trailing 3-2 in the away half of the eighth with one away, yost called in seth mcclung to face albert pujols -- whom he promptly plunked in the numbers and sent to first.
prince fielder and bill hall had both been hit by cardinal starter brad thompson, forcing the warning of both benches. there's of course no doubt that redbird manager tony larussa is exactly the kind of paranoid, bitter old bastard who would have ordered the plunking of fielder, who had belted his 49th and 50th the day before in a rout. but yost, in so obviously and blindly retaliating, not only got mcclung and himself run but put a baserunner on. i despise the jackass genius too, but not enough to hand him baserunners late in a close game. moreover, yost's final and fatal act was to call on derrick turnbow, who has been nothing short of a firestarter the whole second half (6.14 era with 28 bb in 29.1 ip) and turnbow responded by doing what he does best. after getting ryan ludwick to fan and allowing a skip schumaker single, turnbow walked both miggy cairo and kelly stinnett, forcing in a smirking pujols to make it 4-2. brian shouse came on to fan the flames and the brewers fell back 7-2 in a game they eventually lost 7-3.
yost has come in for a lot of criticism in milwaukee, and i can't say any of it is really misplaced. watching him recently allow pitcher dave bush hit for himself in the top of the sixth of a one-run-game, only to lift him before he faced another batter, any baseball fan could begin to understand that yost might be over his skis. the same game illustrated another curious propensity, which is to lift powerhouse third baseman ryan braun with any lead after the sixth. braun is not a good defender, of course -- but replacing him with craig counsell (as he has more often than not) is an obviously counterproductive policy, particularly when that lineup spot is likely to come around again. braun has committed 22 errors in 907 innings at the position; but he's also hit 33 home runs and driven in 94 in 437 ab. he's clearly more likely to help you than hurt you -- that's why you play him at all. so why would you deny him at-bats? then compound all that with rampant rumors of player dissatisfaction with and antagonism against yost, some of who apparently have as little or less respect for him than i do.
anyway, brewer ownership recently gave him a dreaded "vote of confidence", which -- in the context of having blown a near-unassailable 8.5 game lead with the best club in the worst division in baseball -- is probably good until their first serious losing streak in 2008. with a thousand possible competent managers in the baseball world, there's no reason (aside idiocy) to stick with yost. but i'm frankly as appreciative to have had the opportunity to watch him work for the enemy in 2007 as were fans of other clubs to watch dusty baker sabotage the cubs repeatedly over the course of his too-long tenure.
so what is the measure of progress? going into yesterday, the cubs needed four positive outcomes in ten events (five games for both themselves and milwaukee) to clinch the division. in other words, 40% of things had to go right. this morning, that percentage stands at 37.5% (three in eight). not much progress, but progress nonetheless.
there's been a small change in the pitching probables for the rest of the way: