I don't want to be too hard on Ronny Cedeno.
To say the backup infielder has struggled with mental errors in the past is like saying Benny the Bull hasn't had the occasional legal problem.
After getting a big hit last night against the Mets, a really big win when you consider most of the Cubs' success this young season has come at the expense of the Pony League Pittsburgh Pirates, Cedeno goes back to his old ways.
This time he wasn't getting thrown out at second on a walk or having trouble adjusting to the smaller glove used to play second base. Just when you thought he had figured everything out he starts saying things like this:
"We're thinking about the World Series," Cedeno said after the 7-1 victory. "I think we'll be OK if we keep playing like that."
Come again. Let me check the calendar. Right, it says April 22. The Cubs have played 19 games of a 162-game schedule.
This is not to take anything away from how he's handled the bat this season. The only thing more surprising than Cedeno singling home two runs on a two-strike count in the eighth inning last night was Felix Pie soon after taking two balls and then poking a three-run, blind-squirrel-meet-nut homer to right. That said, contributions from guys like Cedeno and Pie are the ingredients of a winning team. It's just too bad the ivy has yet to bloom.
Lineups -- pretty interesting one for the Cubs and the immortal Angel Pagan returns to right field for the Mets. Time to get started on a day Chicago is invaded by New Yorkers.
Jose Reyes takes a couple of strikes from Lilly to start this one. Lilly jams Reyes, who grounds out weakly to second. The switch-htting Pagan hits righty against the lefty Lilly and chases a fastball near his eyes for strike three. David Wright flies out to right on a full-count pitch and Lilly goes 1-2-3 in the first.
Figueroa works from the stretch and gets two strikes past Reed Johnson. Johnson then lines out to center as Bob Brenly makes a Family Circus reference. Love the Family Circus, however, it's no Ziggy. Here's Pie and he pops out to Wright in foul ground.Full count to Derrek Lee and he squibs one back to the pitcher.\
And, yes, you would hope every team and every player's goal would be to win the World Series. It's just rarely said, especially from a backup infielder playing for a franchise who hasn't won anything in close to a century. But nothing wrong with confidence, which certainly fuels everything. Carlos Beltran rips one foul near the Cubs bullpen and it bounces high in the air. Let's hope that wasn't off someone's head. Beltran flies out to left. Lilly strikes out Delgado with a fastball down and in. Damion Easley pops up down the first base line where a back-pedaling Lee gloves it. Speaking of jinxes, Lilly's perfect through two innings.
In all seriousness, Lilly's looked good, changing speeds effectively and hitting his spots. Aramis Ramirez, wearing an elbow pad after getting drilled last night, takes a huge swing at a slider to even the count 2-2. Ball three and four and Ramirez walks. Kosuke Fukudome bounces a single past Delgado, who was holding the runner on, and Ramirez takes third. The man knows how to hit 'em where they aren't. Two-and-two to DeRosa and catcher Raul Casanova goes out to chat with Figueroa. Full count and DeRosa fouls one back. DeRosa takes a close one that just misses the outside corner for ball four to load the bases for the World Series bound Ronny Cedeno. Cedeno quickly falls behind 0-2 after taking a strike and then fouling off one off his hands that he wasn't too happy with himself about. Cedeno fouls off a hanging breaking ball and then takes a fastball down the middle for strike three. That was the opposite of his at-bat last night. Henry Blanco steps up and on the first pitch rolls into an inning-ending double play.
Left fielder Brady Clark flies out to right. Casanova flies out to Pie to bring up the pitcher with two outs. Lilly strikes out his counterpart and we move on.
Lilly pops out to shallow center. Johnson goes down swinging. Pie rips one to the right side and it goes off Delgado's glove and into shallow right for a single. Lee, who's 0-for-10 in his career against Figueroa, according to Len Kasper and ... one second, someone's introducing me to an intern in the sports department. Lee hits it hard but right at Clark in left.
Lilly strikes out Reyes and the hyperactive shortstop does a 360 exiting the box. Pagan lines one to the right-field gap. Pie hustles over there. Pagan takes a big turn around second and then slides to stop himself and retreats back to the bag. I don't think I've ever seen that. So just as the Mets get their first baserunner of the day the Comcast signal goes out. I think this is a problem with the cable in the building. Lilly goes 3-0 to Wright before grooving a fastball right down the middle. Good thing for Lilly, Wright was taking all the way. Lilly walks Wright and the Mets have something going in the fourth with runners on first and second and one out. It's possible Lilly pitched around Wright to get to Beltran who's something like 1-for-18 on this current roadtrip. Lilly gets ahead 0-2 on Beltran and then misses three straight times. Full count to Beltran and Lilly walks him to load the bases. Here's Larry Rothschild. And here's Carlos Delgado, who fouls the first pitch off. Delgado pops it up and Cedeno takes it in shallow left. Easley pops it up to center. DeRosa goes out. Pie comes in and DeRosa makes an over-the-shoulder catch to end the top half of the fourth. Lilly escapes.
Ramirez flies out to left and we get a replay of the grounds crew dragging the infield between innnings. Excitement! Fukudome finds the same hole on the right side he did in his first at-bat for his second single of the game. DeRosa drives it deep to center but not deep enough; Beltran grabs it on the track. There we go: Cedeno pokes one down the right-field line. Pagan boots it near the side wall and here's come Fukudome all the way from first sliding home with the game's first run. Cedeno ends up on second as the the throw goes to the plate and the Mets will put Blanco on to bring up Lilly with two outs. Lilly grounds to the right side, but Figueroa is late covering the bag and everyone's safe. That was really on Delgado. The second baseman fielded the ball and Delgado was just hanging out watching the play rather than doing what a first baseman is supposed to do on a ground ball, go to first base. Brenly's all over him for it. Johnson makes the Mets pay with a bloop single to left that scores two runs. Some seriously sketchy defense by the Mets the last two days and it's hurt them big time. Pitching coach Rick Peterson is out and he's quite a hands-on guy. He did this last night on a mound trip and today he puts his hand on the pitcher's shoulder while he talks to him. No touching! First and second for Pie who bounces one to the potted plant formerly known as Carlos Delgado. Delgado handles it and steps on the bag.
Cubs 3, Mets 0
Lilly's, who's got a one-hit shutout going and worked out of a bases-loaded jam last inning, faces Clark to open the fifth. Clark muscles a single to right just in front of Fukudome. Casanova is out on a swinging bunt to Ramirez. Clark take second. Figueroa grounds sharply to Cedeno. Casanova has to hold at second as Cubs legend Cedeno fires to first for the second out. Reyes walks. Lilly drops a big curve on Pagan to get ahead 0-2. LiIly throws two out of the zone; Pagan doesn't bite but then pops up a 2-2 pitch to second to end the top half.
Lee draws a leadoff walk. The junk-balling Figueroa, who also relies on a lot of smoke and mirrors type stuff, like different wind-ups, herky-jerky wind-ups, quick pitches and slide steps, is missing with a lot now. Well, not quite. He gets Ramirez to flie out to right. Fukudome takes three straight balls and then draws a four-pitch walk. Here's the touchy-feely Peterson again to give Joe Smith, up in the Mets' pen, a bit more time to warm. DeRosa flies out to right where Pagan made a minor adventure of it, taking a circuitous route to the ball and then making a waist-high catch. Lee tags and takes third. Cedeno pops up near the Mets bullpen and no way Delgado is going to get that. It bounces near the aforementioned Joe Smith. Cedeno lines out to Pagan to end it and bath faucets are on sale at Menards.
Cubs 3, Mets 0
Wright grounds out to future gold-glover Ronny Cedeno. Lilly walks Beltran. Delgado lines a single to right. Beltran had to hold up and just gets to second as Fukudome came up Fuku-throwing. Kevin Hart and Sean Marshall are up in the Cubs' pen. Easley bloops a single to right to load the bases with one out. Fukudome faked out Beltran a bit, acting like he was going to catch it. Clark hits and odd one-hopper type thing to DeRosa, who dives, grabs it and gets the out at second. One run scored on the play. I thought for a second he caught it on the fly, but no. Runners on the corners now with two outs for the catcher Casanova, who rolls out to short. That could've been a lot worse. It could've been a lot better for the Cubs, too, had DeRosa caught that ball on the fly and doubled off the runner on second. Ifs and buts, candies and nuts and all that.
Cubs 3, Mets 1
Figueroa, who was on-deck at the end of that inning and would've been yanked for a pinch hitter, remains. Blanco singles under Reyes' glove. Willie Randolph lifts Figueroa for lefty Scott Schoeneweis. Mike Fontenot will hit for Lilly as Bob Howry warms in the pen. Fontenot lays a nice bunt down the first-base line. Schoeneweis fields and Easley shows some fancy footwork covering the bag to get the out. Blanco to second. Blanco's last stolen base was in July 2001. I'm thinking you've got to send him. Schoeneweis is busting Johnson inside and Johnson's not flinching, hoping the pitch grazes his jersey. Or hoping he misses four times, which he does and Johnson takes his base on the walk. Pie nearly beats out a swinging bunt right in front of the plate. Replay, please. Very close but he was safe. Umpire Marty Foster thinks differently and his opinion is the only one that matters. Double switch time: Endy Chavez takes the pitcher's spot in the order, will play left and lead off the seventh. Joe Smith to pitch and bat seventh for Brady Clark. Lee gives Smith's first pitch a ride to deep center but Beltran makes a nice catch right at the wall.
Cubs 3, Mets 1
This month marks the 25th anniversary of Lee Elia's rant, a bowlderized version here. Marty Brennaman would approve. They're really, really behind you around here. Howry on to pitch. Chavez grounds out to Cedeno. Reyes bounces out to second. Pagan does the same. Here's former Cubs center fielder Doug Glanville, either really drunk or doing a bad Harry Caray impersonation, singing TMOTTBG. I'm pretty sure it's the latter. Though, we all wish it was the former.
Ramirez lines a single to left. Fukudome bangs a double off the 368 sign in left-center; Ramirez to third. DeRosa, a Penn guy, pokes a single over Easley's head, scoring Ramirez, to which Glanville, another Penn guy, says, "Go Quakers. Horrible nickname, but go Quakers." Go team, kind of! Runners on the corners and no one out for the man of the century Cedeno. Cedeno works a full count. Cedeno strikes out chasing ball four. Daryle Ward will hit for Blanco. Let's hope he catches for Blanco, too. That might be fun. Joe Smith exits. He has to get to Washington for Game 3 of the Cavs-Wiz series. Enter Pedro Feliciano. So much for Ward. With the lefty on the mound, Geovany Soto will hit. Feliciano's first pitch gets away from Casanova and DeRosa takes second. Another one in the dirt and they'll put Soto on. Red-headed Matt Murton hits for Howry. What the Tony La Russa? Willie Randolph comes out again for another pitching change. This time it's Jorge Sosa. On the upside, this gives us more time to hear from Glanville. Bases loaded for the Big Murt and he takes a ball outside. Ball two outside. Murton's in the driver's seat, but not for long after taking two strikes right down the middle. Murton grounds to the drawn-in Delgado, who comes home to get the out. Johnson's up there fouling off pitch after pitch on a 2-2 count. Popped it up and the Cubs leave the bases loaded. But get one. Can't forget about that.
Cubs 4, Mets 1
Carlos Marmol on to pitch. He starts with Wright, who sends it deep to right-center where Pie runs it down for the first out. Marmol fans Beltran with a nasty slider as Bob and Len have an interesting conversation about a setup guy facing 3-4-5 in the eighth versus the closer facing (hopefully) 6-7-8 in the ninth and which job is harder. As it stands right now, this is the biggest inning in the game. Marmol gets two strikes on Delgado and misses outside. He gets Delgado swinging and makes quick work of the heart of the Mets' lineup.
Pie, who took Sosa deep last night, shows bunt but pulls the bat back. He singles to right on the next pitch. Lee, who was hitless today, singles to right. Pie to second. Ramirez hits it deep to left but Chavez catches it on the track. Fukudome nearly doubles down the right-field line, but it's just foul. The count goes full. Sosa takes a stroll; he feels as if he's getting squeezed. Ball four to load the bases for DeRosa. Fukudome's got a double, two singles and has walked twice. And, as Brenly points out, he was down 0-2. DeRosa grounds to short and Pie is out at the plate. Cubs great Ronny Cedeno clears 'em with a grand slam just inside the foul pole in left. And in the sight I never thought I'd see department: Ronny Cedeno takes a curtain call at Wrigley Field. Cedeno personally will carry the team on his back to the World Series, apparently. Soto singles. Jason Marquis is gonna hit for Marmol. Ryan Theriot, not exactly slumping, has had the last two days off with a sore back. Marquis pops out to end the inning but not before Cedeno busts this one open.
Cubs 8, Mets 1
Kevin Hart will pitch the ninth. Easley grounds it past Ramirez, but there's Omar Vizquel, er, Ronny Cedeno with a nice play to get the first out. Marlon Anderson hits ... fouls a few off, takes a few balls, full count. He walks. Casanova singles up the middle on the first pitch. Meanwhile, Hart's all over the place. He gets two strikes on Chavez before Chavez nearly drops one down the right-field line. That was foul by an inch. Chavez bounces to Lee, who throws to second to get the second out. No chance getting Chavez at first. Reyes grounds to Lee, who flips to Hart covering and this one's over.
Final: Cubs 8, Mets 1
The Cubs take two from the Mets and have won five straight to cap a 7-1 homestand. The lesson today: never doubt Ronny Cedeno. I take back everything I ever said about the man, which was kind of a lot. Bow in the presence of greatness. Thanks for reading, everyone. We're back at 2:05 p.m. Thursday for Cubs-Rockies.