In spite of the Cubs’ hard-fought series win and 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night (or early Thursday morning, depending on where you were), it could accurately be said that many were “thinking blue” in an entirely different manner.
The game itself had all the makings of a true classic.
The Cubs staged an eighth-inning rally to erase a 4-2 deficit and take two of three from the Dodgers and one of the most anemic offenses currently present throughout all of Major League Baseball. Closer Ryan Dempster set a new franchise record with his 23rd consecutive save to surpass Joe Borowski’s previous 22-game streak from 2003 to ’04.
Sean Marshall was impressive in his third start, and the Cubs bullpen, aside from a rocky debut by David Aardsma, walked many a tight rope to stop the bleeding and keep the game within reach until Ronny Cedeno’s go-ahead two-run single put the team in the driver’s seat.
By all accounts, it should have been a great night to celebrate the Cubs and their promising 9-5 start to the season.
Only it really wasn’t.
In undoubtedly the most heart-stopping moment of the season, the Cubs stared down the possibility of losing not only their top offensive threat indefinitely, but one of the most vital cogs to their newly revamped bullpen – all within a matter of seconds.
In the home half of the seventh inning, Derrek Lee and Scott Eyre both left the game with separate injuries on the same freakish, gut-wrenching play.
While awaiting a flip to first on a bunt groundball to the left side of the mound, Lee was bulldozed by a speeding Rafael Furcal while the left-handed Eyre, who would not throw another pitch, had injured himself diving for the ball seconds earlier.
The result: Lee a sprained wrist, Eyre a right knee contusion.
The news on how long the $65,000,000 Lee will be sidelined remains, as the Cubs say, “inconclusive.” An X-ray taken in Los Angeles revealed the wrist sprain, but the Cubs want a more thorough analysis by team doctors in Chicago before determining their next course of action.
For Eyre, the news appears to be OK. He is listed as day-to-day and with the day off Thursday, any lack of presence in the bullpen should only be temporary.
Lee, trooper and warrior emeritus that he is, incredibly wanted to stay in the game before either Cubs trainers and coaches voiced their objection, or he decided there was more pain in the wrist that was bearable under normal playing conditions – whichever came first.
And so, we wait.
The Cubs have Thursday off before opening up a three-game series against St. Louis at the new Busch Stadium Friday. Jerome Williams will get the start against Cardinals ace Mark Mulder beginning at 7:10 p.m. CDT. The game can be seen on WGN.
In the meantime, here are a couple of figures on the Cubs thus far.
Through their first 14 games this season, the team is showing a modest but all the same encouraging two-game turnaround from its 7-7, .500 start in 2005 that pretty much never wavered.
Through 14 games a season ago, the pitching staff had a combined 4.08 ERA with a 4.56 mark among its starters. This season, the staff has a 3.71 average, good for second best in the majors behind only the Mets. The Cubs have held opponents to a .215 average against.
The difference has been the starters, who thus far have allowed 60 hits in 78 1/3 innings. A year ago, Cub starters had surrendered 82 hits in 81 innings after their first 14 contests.
And offensively, the Cubs .279 average as a unit is good for third in the National League behind only the Rockies and Astros – hardly a fair comparison considering the juice boxes both teams annually pass off as professional ballparks.
For now, there is still plenty to remain excited about, Derrek Lee notwithstanding.
Information from the Cubs Media Relations Office was used in this report.
Steve Holley is the publisher of Inside The Ivy. In addition to his work for Scout.com, he also covers Nicholls State University athletics for the Tri-Parish Times in southeast Louisiana. E-mail Steve at email@example.com.