The Cubs' road trip really couldn't have gotten off to a worse start than last night's game. They lost the game because they still can't hit with runners in scoring position. They had their one hitter who is not in a slump, Aramis Ramirez, leave early due to a calf strain. They had their only truly reliable arm in the bullpen, Carlos Marmol, leave early after injuring his knee.
The good news is that the injury is not to Marmol's arm. The bad news is that any injury to Carlos Marmol is devastating to the bullpen. Gordon Wittenmyer reports that the MRI this morning revealed a grade 1 sprain of the knee.
Meanwhile, a roster composed almost entirely of poor fielding corner outfielders and diminutive second basemen is sustaining injuries to positions that have no depth on the bench. As of this writing, the Cubs have not made a DL move with either Ramirez or the seemingly perpetually injured Milton Bradley (groin).
The baseball gods are heaping heavy doses of adversity on the Cubs in the early going and we will have to see how they respond. These are the sorts of events that destroyed previous Cubs seasons, so there is a certain amount of panic that will naturally creep in.
Lou Piniella, already concerned about the lack of offensive punch, juggled his lineup to begin the series. He stuck Ryan "Slappy" Theriot in the leadoff spot in an effort to capitalize on his strong start in getting on base. He moved Soriano down to the third spot, hoping that his power numbers would be better utilized with Theriot and/or Fukudome on base in front of him.
He moved Derrek Lee down to the fifth spot in an effort to take some pressure off and rejuvenate his bat.
The results after one game were not immediately encouraging. Theriot was 0 for 5 with five runner stranded and a rally-killing double play (though the tying run to score did score on the play). Lee was 1 for 4 with a run scored, he left three men on. Soriano was 1 for 4.
So the Cubs will take the field today with Koyie Hill and Joey Gathright as pretty much the only bench players left that can still play and Snap, Crackle and Pop as the starting infield lineup. Sean Marshall will try to duplicate Ryan Dempster's feat of pitching seven innings since they have no one to bail the bullpen out from the epidemic of walks they issue.
The gods are bringing it and I would love nothing more than to see the Cubs shove the adversity right down the Cardinals' throats while the smartest fans in the world do the wave.