By Shawn Muller–
When I made my first trek to Wrigley Field for the 2011 season yesterday afternoon, I was optimistic about the Cubs chances of winning the game, and taking the season-opening series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But then I remembered something:
The Cubs were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates.
For reasons that even the world’s greatest scientists can’t explain, the Bucs seem to froth at the mouth when they
see the Cubs on their schedule (going 10-5 against Chicago in 2010)…and promptly crap the bed against the rest of the National League.
After Alfonso Soriano hit the first home run of the season for the Cubs, a solo shot to left field that gave Chicago a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, my friend Eddie’s brother Dave asked me what I was going to write about game. I told him I was leaning towards writing about how happy I was with the way the young guys–and Starlin Castro, in particular–were playing to begin the season.
Starlin Castro was 3-4 from the plate (and is 8-13 on the season), including two triples and a run scored. Second baseman Darwin Barney was 1-4, including a crucial sacrifice fly that tied the game at 3 in the fifth. Tyler Colvin had—at the time anyway—perhaps the biggest play of the game in the eighth-inning, when he threw an absolute laser-beam to home, throwing out Jason Jaramillo at the plate for an inning-ending double play, preserving the Cubs 4-3 lead.
Yes, the youth on the Cubs roster put the team in a great position to win the opening series of the 2011 season, and I was definitely feeling pretty good about what I was seeing…up 4-3 in the ninth, and Carlos Marmol on the mound looking for his second save in as many days…why wouldn’t I be feeling good about the Cubs getting the W? Marmol was lights out on Saturday, striking out the side in the Cubs 5-3 comeback win, so I expected more of the same on Sunday.
Then–almost as if on cue–the first, “you just know this is not going to end well” moment of the 2011 season occurred.
Marmol walked Garrett Jones to lead off the ninth.
Neil Walker followed that up with a single.
Lyle Overbay hit a sac fly, sending Jones to third and Walker to second. With both Jones and Walker on, and one out, Pedro Alvarez hit a squibber to Starlin Castro…and then, the wheels fell off.
Jones scored on the dribbler to tie the game at 4.
That was inevitable.
But instead of just eating the ball, and holding Neil Walker at third base with the game tied at 4, Castro–for reasons unknown to anyone watching the game–decided to try and force a play that wasn’t there, an sent a wild throw past Carlos Pena at first base, allowing Walker to score the eventual game-winning run for the Pirates.
In a game that had so many positives coming from the youth of the Cubs lineup, it was that same youth that cost the Cubs the game. Had Castro been a veteran shortstop, and not the youngest player in the major leagues, he probably doesn’t make that throw.
But he is not a veteran, and he is going to make mistakes. After so much positive coming from the young Cubbies during the game, it was tough to see the ninth-inning play out the way it did.
There is no doubt in my mind that Starlin Castro is going to be a superstar in the league, but his age and inexperience was on full display when the game was on the line. What happened in the ninth-inning won’t diminish the fact that Castro has been THE brightest spot for the Cubs thus far.
Once the game was over, and we were getting ready to leave the stadium, Dave asked me if I was still going to write about how pleased I have been with the youth on the team after what transpired at the end of the game.
One play in the third game of the season is not going to change my opinion of Starlin Castro…and he, and both Darwin Barney and Tyler Colvin helped put–and keep–the Cubs in a position to win the game.
That is all you can ask for.
Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.
Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.