Click here for the photo gallery of Monday's game.
Well, let me give you some good news first. August is over. The Cubs can hopefully forget about their woeful 11-17 record for the month, and begin September with a clean slate, a sound head, and some respectable play on the field.
And I'm going to try to forget that the Cubs front office basically chose to stand pat, silent while the team basically imploded in front of their eyes.
The bad news? August is over. Those coming to the park last night were treated to unseasonably cool weather—that means jackets—and the first real signs that Cubs fans are checking out for the year, given the 36,990 in attendance. It's football time, you know.
Oh, and Rich Harden had a terrible outing that probably made a few of those fans scratch their heads and wonder if the Cubs shouldn't have sent him off to Minnesota. He walked six, and allowed all five Astros runs in a 5-3 Cubs loss.
What can I say? He was wild. Not missing in the zone wild, but Mitch Williams buck wild.
And Harden got into all kinds of trouble in the third, walking a pair to load the bases for Carlos Lee. You can guess the outcome. With nowhere to put him, and forced to throw get-me-over pitches, Lee whacked Rich for a two-run single.
Lee would later take it up a notch, when in the fifth he jacked a two-run homer to extend the Astros lead, and mercifully send Harden to the showers.
Sometimes it's just not your night, and as the young lady sitting next to me so eloquently put it after watching him struggle early in that third inning, "It's a good thing I'm not staying till the end tonight."
Was it the weather? The distractions. The trade talk? I wondered, but it wasn't to hear Rich tell it:
"You can't just ignore [the rumors]," he said. "But the whole thing was ridiculous and had nothing to do with my performance today. I won't make excuses. I still knew I was starting on Monday and I had to prepare myself, and I got prepared and I just didn't get it done."
And the rest of the Cubs? Well, they picked up a pair in the fifth themselves, on a pair of RBI singles by Koyie Hill and Ryan Theriot.
But Astros starter Roy Oswalt was sharp, dropping 67 mile-per-hour curveballs in for strikes like he was pitching pennies. He went seven innings strong, before turning things over to Latroy Hawkins—who gave up his obligatory run, this time a Derrek Lee solo shot in the eighth—and Jose Valverde.
Well, at least they can still take two of three.