Cubs-Cards:Cubs open series with a clunker

Damen JacksonCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 15: Starting pitcher Rich Harden #40 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Colorado Rockies on April 15, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Rockies defeated the Cubs 5-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Click here for the photo gallery of Friday's game

Every time that I think I've seen the worst of the 2009 Chicago Cubs, they seem take their awful play to whole new lows. Friday, they took it even further in an 8-3 loss to the Cardinals; an embarrassing effort in the opener of what may be the most important series of the year to date.

And no, it's not hyperbole. As I'd pointed out at the beginning of the homestand, this is all hands on deck, with the Cubs needing to turn this into a winning homestand by any means necessary. A bad series here, and all of a sudden, they're fading, the Cardinals are surging, and you're sitting seven or so games back—and probably beginning to strongly consider the merits of shedding some of this payroll instead of adding pieces at the deadline.

And really, why shouldn't they? If this thud is the best that the current team can summon against the front-runners of the division, then I say again...sell.

From beginning to end, it was bad. For starters, Rich Harden got knocked around like he stole something from the onset. I give him credit for keeping the Cubs in the game at least, especially given that after reviewing some photos and video last night, I think that shoulder still isn't quite right.

But he did things that you just don't do: walking Chris Carpenter, not changing speeds well and pitching to Albert Pujols. Don't. Pitch. To Pujols!

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The entire Cardinals offense is based almost solely on Pujol's production. Why he isn't getting the Bonds treatment is absolutely beyond me.

I don't care if the bases are loaded, and he's up. Walk him. Stop pitching to the man. Let him go a couple of weeks of not having to swing the bat, and let's see how crisp he is. For right now though, he's dialed in, as his mammoth homer in the fifth inning proved, and you're dumber than dirt if you keep serving him up pitches.

Thank Derrek Lee for keeping things interesting with a three-run homer, but Aaron Heilman relieved Harden, which resulted in an implosion that left everyone stunned.

Heilman just could not throw a strike, walking four, and allowing five of the first six hitters to reach. This was made worse by Pujols smartly taking third on a Ryan Ludwick single, that Aramis Ramirez mis-fielded for an error, and Alfonso Soriano inexplicably calling of Ryan Theriot on a Yadier Molina fly that he subsequently dropped.

So what should have been no worse than a run or two resulted into a four-run inning that put this thing away, and likely has yet again left manager Lou Piniella looking for answers.

But hey, at least the kids looked good. Jeff Samardzija threw two really good innings of work and featuring a much better-looking breaking ball doing so.

And Jeff Stevens—called up from AAA—threw a scoreless ninth in his first major league appearance. Weird. He played his first game with the guy that he was acquired for sitting in the other dugout. How often does that happen?

Well, it's status quo in Cubbie Nation. Too bad the status is slumdog right now.