Tuesday, April 11, 2006

could've been worse

it isn't often, dear reader, that a team can get pasted 9-2 and one can review the game and legitimately say, "it could've been worse."

but this one could have. glendon rusch's second start of the 2006 season was on a par with his first, which combined with a 20 mile-per-hour wind blowing straight out to make for very harrowing times. without any semblance of location, rusch left most of his pitches up throughout the early going and all of the first six reds batters in the game lofted balls into the wind. two of them landed beyond the wall, the other four grazed the ivy but stayed in. when reds pitcher bronson arroyo homered off rusch in the third for the second time in a week, it seemed less than shocking -- rusch was living so dangerously that it seemed a gift to be down only three after two and a half despite not having shown any sign of offensive life against arroyo. when adam dunn crushed his second homer of the game in the fourth with the cubs having managed just a single hit -- an ironic double by rusch himself -- a sense of gloom had already settled in on the afternoon's proceedings. but one was still perplexed at how the team could only be down four in spite of the pitching.

that gray gloom turned pitch black in the sixth, when a laboring rusch -- who gamely completed five innings and 97 pitches in spite of himself -- gave way to young lefthander will ohman. before ohman could record an out, he had allowed five runs on four hits and a walk, punctuated by back-to-back homers from edwin encarnacion and austin kearns. his defense hardly helped him, with ronny cedeno -- who looks a bit more every day like a fielding liability -- refusing to take charge on a ken griffey jr. popup that fell between him and aramis ramirez to start the inning. arroyo went seven very strong innings, and the cubs avoided the shutout by tacking two meaningless runs on in the eighth and ninth.

offensive bright spots were hard to come by, but struggling matt murton's 2-for-3 is an encouraging sign and michael barrett continued his torrid early pace by going 3-for-4.

the big news of the day, however, was injury related -- jacque jones was helped off the field in the top of the sixth with a strained hamstring, being replaced by angel pagan, and is listed as day-to-day. and if that wasn't enough, aramis ramirez reportedly strained his hamstring as well while grounding out to second in the eighth. neifi perez subbed at third for the ninth.

now at 4-2, the cubs have still not had a pitcher work past six and a third innings and have now seen four of their six starts truncated at five or fewer. this page has already noted that this could be a severe strain on the cub bullpen in the early going -- and apparently dusty baker agrees, as he sent saturday's ostensible starter, jerome williams, out to pitch the last two frames of the blowout. williams looked good, but one has to wonder if such a move isn't just possibly a precursor to a surprise starter this weekend. rich hill and angel guzman both impressed in the last two days and could be anointed to take a turn for the big club.

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