Monday, April 23, 2012

4/21/12 Cincinnati Reds 1, Chicago Cubs 6

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 2 of 3

I don’t mean to sound like a religious freak, but I prayed for a good start on the behalf of Paul Maholm this morning.
Hey, I’m not kidding. I really did.

One of the brightest moments of the Cubs’ somewhat snarky off-season signings was their acquisition of Paul Maholm from the Pirates as a free agent. Don’t ask me to provide any splits or spray charts, but I like Paul Maholm. As a guy, as a player, and as a pitcher. I like his stuff, and I like his attitude. I’m less surprised the Pirates let him go (free agency; it is what it is) but more surprised the Cubs were able to pick him up. When the Cubs pick up a great pitcher from the Pirates, you’ve gotta say “hey, that’s great.”

In 2011, the Pirates pwned the Cubs; with Maholm on the mound the Pirates were 2-2, Maholm was 2-1 with a no decision…some of us are still rubbing our eyes after his CG shutout of the Cubs at Wrigley on 5/28/11. Cub fans know he’s pretty good, and we also know better than to hold our breath until something better might come along. A 4.36 ERA, 96 ERA+, 5.5 SO/9 and 1.85 SO/BB in 7 seasons with the Buccos is definitely nothing to sneeze at. He has great stuff, he seems to have recovered from his shaky 2010 season, and he really really is a great person. A hard-working, honest pitcher.

His first 2 starts for the Cubs this year were kinda rough, and while it’s too early to write off anyone’s success (or lack thereof), I realized that his record against the Cubs last year notwithstanding, in 26 starts for the Pirates last year, he never once faced the Reds. Call it something special in my coffee, or a bright notion in my heart, but I thought it best to give some thanks and ask for a positive outing for Maholm today…not to set any record straight (I don’t need that), but to give him and the Cubs a boost of confidence while they wade through the first few weeks of what is looking to be a season that is every bit as dismal as most of us could have imagined. I mean, what can it hurt?

After the Cubs graciously afforded Homer Bailey the opportunity to reflect upon his performance and feel like a good pitcher in Game 1 of the series, the Cubs came back and helped Paul Maholm (and the rest of the team) clear his cobwebs with a well-played win. Maholm pitched a season-high 6 innings, allowing only 4 hits, 1 ER, 3BB and 5K. Maholm starts with another shaky 1st inning, but settles down to keep the Reds handcuffed.

The Cubs broke out of their spell with 20 total bases, going 5-15 with RISP. Only Blake DeWitt and Ian Stewart fail to score a runner. The Reds, on the other hand, go 2-10 with RISP and can’t seem to figure out Maholm or the lukewarm Cubs bullpen. The big surprise for me was the unlucky outing of Cincinnati’s Mike Leake…he doesn’t seem to be the guy he was 2 years ago, and while I did pray for Maholm’s success, I may have sealed the deal by choosing Leake over Maholm in Pitch or Ditch…but that’s OK, my conscience is clear. Leake’s 5 ER are the most runs he’s ever allowed vs. the Cubs in any of his 8 career starts against them.

The wagon is still broken, there are lots of things happening (and not happening) with the Cubs this year, but today…you couldn’t get the smile off of my face with a blowtorch. That just isn’t going to happen.


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