Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Game 8: Cubs 6 Pirates 4

You know, it's kind of sad that no one beyond the 9,000 season ticket holders who bought tickets for this one (honestly, if more than 7,000 showed up, I'd be shocked) and ex-yinzers with Extra Innings or got to see this one, because it was an all around fairly solid game for the Pirates tonight. Well, except that they lost, but hey, we can't hope for too much in one game, right?

First things first, Zach Duke probably made his best start since he shut out the Cubs in early '06. He was actually making hitters look silly (namely Fukudome) when I switched over a couple times early on and the Cubs' announcers were commenting that they hadn't seen his fastball zip the way it did tonight in quite some time. Since the only time he's been successful in his career has been when he was mixing a lively two-seamer in with all of his other pitches, I'd say that's an encouraging sign. Throw in SIX strikeouts in seven innings while holding the Cubs to 8 hits but only one walk, and I'd say we had just about the best we can hope for from Duke.

Of course, John Russell had to throw a wrench into it by letting Duke throw more than 115 pitches for the second straight start. WTF, dude? Duke had elbow problems last year and he's still trying to find his stride after two down years and throwing a ton of pitches in April is not going to be the way to do that. I get that the bullpen's taxed by these early season games, but man, drop Rivas and call up Burnett. Do something that doesn't risk a player's health. Please.

Beyond that, the Pirates got two huge hits from the guys that they're supposed to be getting huge hits from. In a 2-1 game in the bottom of the 9th, Jason Bay lasered a home run to dead center off of closer Kerry Wood (how funny does that sound?) to tie things up. For all of the moaning that's been done about him, he had three hits tonight and every time I see him play, he looks a little better than the night before. Remember: all of April is a small sample size. After Phil Dumatrait gave up a bomb to Aramis Ramirez in the 14th, Adam LaRoche inexplicably responded with a home run on a rope to right field to tie things up again. I think my favorite part of it was how he dropped his bat and sprinted down the line like a 12-year old that just hit his first bomb because he was so excited to make contact. Of course, even that wasn't enough because Dumatrait continued to get rocked in the 15th (mostly because he's just not very good), leading to the 6-4 loss.

Of course, that is the problem with this game: we still lost. We lost mostly because Ryan Dempster dominated us for seven innings, holding us to only a single by Bay and striking out five over that span. How does that happen? How does this team have such a knack for making awful pitchers look good? We've really got to stop doing that.