Traveling Circus: Juggling and Tight Rope Acts


Thanks to some untimely injuries being dumped on him just after one full week of the season, manager Mike Quade had to do some line up juggling. Starlin Castro was inserted into the lead off spot in place of the injured Kosuke Fukudome, and Cubs ace Ryan Dempster was bumped up a day to take what would have been Andrew Cashner’s second career start. With the off day last Thursday, Dempster was still going on normal rest. A Cubs win was very important as it would be a nice way to bounce right back from the tough loss on Sunday, as well as getting a good start on the Houston series with Astros aces Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez looming in games two and three respectively.


Dempster, looking to tally his first win of the season, was dealing through the first six innings. All the Astros could muster against the Cubs ace were ground ball outs and strike outs. The only blemish through those innings were a couple singles in the 5th inning that allowed Houston to scratch across a run.

But then Dempster hit a wall in the 7th inning. He gave up a solo home run to Bill Hall and almost gave up another to Michael Bourn. In fact the umpire crew had to go to replay to make sure the call on the field of double was correct. Either way, it ended up being a moot point as Bourn came in to score anyway on a home run by Angel Sanchez. And just like that, the Cubs lead was down to one.

Cue the tight rope act. Reliever John Grabow escaped a runners on first and second jam of his own doing, and in the 8th inning, Sean Marshall had to over come two seeing eye singles that tipped off the gloves of his infield teammates. He struck out Bourn for the big second out of the inning before giving way to Carlos Marmol and a four out save opportunity. The Cubs closer struck out Sanchez to finish off the 8th and followed up with two outs to start the 9th inning. But the 27th out proved to be a bit tricky, especially with Marmol having come into the game in the 8th, and the closer surrendered a hit and a single before settling down to strike out Joe Inglett to earn the save.


All Spring there was plenty of discussion here on Cubbies Crib on who the Cubs lead off hitter would be, for better or for worse. While Fukudome has gotten off to a fine start as the lead off hitter, his injury led to Castro filling that role tonight. While two games so far this early in the 2011 season is indeed a small sample size, the young phenom is 6 for 9 in that role with four runs, including three tonight alone. The first out he recorded in this game was a 13 pitch battle before he went down swinging, and he also tallied the first Cubs stolen base of the season, two additional traits you like to see in a lead off hitter. While hitting in the two hole may be best for the long term growth of Castro as a hitter, what we have seen so far from him out of the top spot is sure to add fuel to the argument of having him bat first regularly this season if the Fukudome and Jeff Baker lead off platoon starts to struggle as the season goes along.

Despite the question mark at lead off, the Cubs offense so far features one of the best table setters as a team. This game was no different as Darwin Barney went 2 for 3 with two runs and two walks, including a RBI triple in the top of the 2nd inning. Marlon Byrd attempted to let his bat do the talking tonight after being short with the media Sunday evening. The veteran center fielder came through with a 2 for 5 day and 2 RBIs.