What started out looking like an old-fashioned Coors Field shootout last night ended up becoming quite the pitching duel as the Cubs prevailed over the Rockies 5-3. Despite scoring 8 runs combined in the first 2 innings the two teams held each other scoreless the rest of the game thanks to some gutsy pitching by Kerry Wood and surprisingly Jeff Fassero. With this win last night and some help from the Phillies the Cubs have now moved into a tie with San Diego for the NL wild card spot. I know I wasn't alone in thinking that the 5-3 lead the Cubs had established in the second inning would not hold up but shockingly neither team could manage a single run after that. Jeff Fassero settled down after his rough 2nd inning, in which he was likely one more batter away from being pulled, and proceeded to set down 11 straight Cubs before Kerry Wood reached on a single in the 6th. Not to be outdone, Kerry Wood also rebounded after his tough first inning to hold the Rockies scoreless in his next seven innings, giving the Cubs a strong eight inning, three run effort.
I haven't been able to research this idea yet and it will likely fall on it's face when I do, but it seems to me that the Cub pitchers are having a very tough time with the first inning of games. From what I observed it seems like Cub pitchers rarely get out of the first inning easily, often using up to thirty pitches and giving up a couple of runs. Yesterday was no different as Kerry Wood struggled in the first , giving up three runs on a Todd Hilton homer and a Larry Walker triple while throwing 24 pitches. I don't know if this is a trend, a problem, or maybe just a fluke but in the past 6 wins Cubs pitching has surrendered at least one run in 4 of the 6 first innings. Even in the game in which carols Cambrian shut out the Brewers in eight innings of work, carols still needed 31 pitches to get out of a jam in the first inning. This phenomenon could be the result of being too hyped up or maybe it is a more serious problem in that they are not warming up enough before the game. Either way, I hope this is just a fluke because it makes a team's job much harder when they are forced to play down early in the game.
I know it is way too early to pass judgment but I am enjoying Corey Patterson's short stint as the leadoff man. I know deep down that he probably does not have the makings of a true leadoff hitter as he is way too impatient and strikes out way too much, but it seems to be working right now. Patterson was 1-5 last night which at face value does not seem great for a lead off hitter but he showed some patience at the plate and it was his steal that resulted in the go ahead run when Nomar Garciaparra dumped a ball into right field. If Corey can take a few more pitches and get his first bunt attempt into play, I believe he would be a good leadoff hitter for this team. Too often he messes up his first bunt attempt at which point he is already down a strike and the infield is in and waiting for him. If Corey can adapt to his new role he would be the speedy, base stealing threat that the Cubs need at the top of the order.
Tonight Carlos Zambrano takes on Jamey Wright in game two of the series. The Cubs hitters seem to love hitting at Coors, though I'm not sure what hitter wouldn't love it, and hopefully they can provide some good run support for Carlos tonight. A win tonight sets the table for a potential sweep and keeps the Cubs rolling on an all important NL West trip. Hopefully the Cubs will take care of business and win tonight behind a strong effort from Zambrano.