Well, that didn’t end well. A couple of days ago, with the Houston Astros coming into Chicago for a three-game series, I suggested that anything less than a sweep by the Cubs would be unacceptable. The Astros had just 11 road wins on the season, by far the worst record in the big leagues. And the Cubs, for all their troubles on the road this year, are slightly above .500 at Wrigley Field. It looked like the makings of a confidence-building sweep for the Cubs.
But not so fast. The Cubs trotted Chris Volstad to the mound again, with the hopes that he’d finally break into the win column this season. The Cubs traded away Carlos Zambrano for him, so it stands to reason that he could hold the lowly Astros in check. A 1-8 record would still look very unsightly, but at least he would be rid of that pesky dinosaur egg.
But the Astros had other plans. They roughed up Volstad over five innings, and delivered the knockout blow in the third inning. Brett Wallace hit a long home run to center, and the Cubs simply don’t have the offense to recover from that. But the Astros didn’t stop there.
The low point of the game, and perhaps the Cubs’ season, came in the seventh inning. Scott Moore hit a solo homer to right, making the score 10-0 which, as any softball player knows, might have been enough to end the game right there, depending on what the league’s slaughter rules are. Yes, the Astros came to town and applied a mercy-rule beatdown to the Cubs, in front of 33,000 Cubs fans. But at least they got to hear Todd Hollandsworth sing the seventh-inning stretch!
This latest Cubs indignity — and I can’t think of a better word for it — feels like a punch in the gut. Volstad is clearly not up to the task of pitching in the starting rotation, as an 0-9 record with an ERA just under seven will attest. There’s no reason to fall so far behind a team like the Astros. A four-run deficit for this Cubs offense is practically insurmountable. It might just as well be a 10-run deficit instead.
The Astros will go for their second road series win of the season Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field. They won two out of three from the White Sox in early June, if you’re interested. The Cubs can still salvage the series with a win, but the fact that they need to salvage anything is embarrassing, in its own right.