Cubs Play Poorly, Lose Game 1; It's Now All on Zambrano

It's not so much that the Cubs lost last night that worries me. It's the way that they lost that's going to lead to a very nerve-racking day for me.

Obviously, Ryan Dempster's performance was not up to par last night. 4.2 IP, SEVEN BBs!, 4 ER, 7.71 ERA. But it's the offense that worries me even more. Apart from a cheap, wind-blown HR by Mark DeRosa (can we just crown him team MVP right now?) the Cubs didn't get anything else going all night long. DeRosa made it to 2nd base in the 4th. Ramirez had an utterly wasted leadoff double in the 6th and made it to 3rd on a fielder's choice. And then Theriot made it to 3rd in the 9th, mostly because the Dodgers didn't care as they already had the game in the bag. All told, the cubs left 8 guys on base (3 by Soriano and his 0-5, 3 K performance alone)...but you're simply not going to win a lot of games when you're not getting more than 3 guys to 2nd base (not counting the HR). The Cubs simply MUST hit the ball a LOT better tonight and going forward if this thing is going to last longer than this week.

And so now, basically, the season comes down to Carlos Zambrano tonight at home. The same Carlos Zambrano who went 1-1 with a 7.08 ERA in the month of September. And yes, that number INCLUDES his no-hitter. I know he's Big Z and everything, the Baby Bull, but I'm not exactly confident that he's going to be able to channel his inner pitcher, chill the eff out, and throw strikes tonight. The good news: in his 2 division series outings, Z has actually pitched pretty well, going 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA over 11.2 IP with 12 Ks. It just doesn't seem like he's going to be able to control himself in a start as big as tonight's, but we'll all be rooting for him I guess.

The key to the series remain unchanged after last night: just don't let Manny beat ya. Manny hit a HR last night, but that really wasn't the knockout blow. Manny's key contribution last night came in the 5th inning. After a getting Derek Lowe to ground out and then a walk to Furcal, Dempster got Russell Martin to fly out for the 2nd out of the inning. Up comes Manny. Dempster gets him down 0-2 quickly...and then proceeds to screw around with 3 high balls and walks him. Frazzled by the AB, Dempster then walks Ethier. Then goes up 0-2 on Loney before giving up the grand slam. Manny's single AB, I'd posit, not only got himself on base, but then knocked Dempster off his game enough that he walked the next batter, and then changed the way he pitched to Loney at 0-2. The Cubs HAVE to keep Manny in check here. Zambrano needs to take care of business with the players hitting in front of him tonight and hope he survives Manny at this point. Here's to hoping he can.

I'm not saying it's time to panic here. But I know I am.

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