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Baseball Tue Aug 18 2009

Cubs Inch Closer to Rock Bottom

On a night where runs were hard to come by, in a park notorious for keeping balls inside the park, Kevin Gregg made offense look easy. Prior to the eight inning of Monday night's game in San Diego, the Cubs and the Padres had complied a scant four hits and zero runs each. Ted Lilly made his return from the DL and pitched six strong innings - allowing four hits, no runs and keeping his pitch count to 70. The Cubs made Padres' starter Kevin Correia work a little harder to finish his six innings but ultimately scored no runs either. After seven scoreless innings, it looked like the Cubs grabbed the reigns and put themselves in position to squeak out a low scoring victory in the top of the eight inning. Derrek Lee led off the inning with a triple and Aramis Ramirez's single in the next at bat drove in Lee to score the game's first run. John Grabow and Carlos Marmol combined for a perfect second half of the eight and set the table for the closer, Gregg, to end the game.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Kevin Gregg seemed as if he had righted the ship. Yes, he struggled early in the season, but over a twelve week span during May, June and July he allowed only seven earned runs - a 1.97 ERA over 32 appearances. However, as soon as the calendar flipped to August, that ship might as well have capsized. In his eight appearances during August, Gregg has allowed six earned runs, a 7.36 ERA, and three blown saves. There are only six pitchers in all of baseball with six or more blown saves, TWO of them are Cubs relievers - Aaron Heilman and Gregg, both with six. Only Brad Lidge of the Phillies has more with eight.

The latest, and sixth blown save for Gregg came Monday night in San Diego. The Padres needed only one run to tie and two runs to win; instead they scored four in a game where San Diego had been held scoreless for eight previous innings. With two outs and a man on first, Gregg allowed a game tying double to Chase Headley, intentionally walked Kevin Kouzmanoff and then gave up the game winning home run to Kyle Blanks. Both hits were the sole extra base hits the Padres had all night. In fact, the Padres only had men reach second base twice before the ninth inning. Either the Padres' hitters bared down and found their swing in a late game resurgence, or Kevin Gregg is starting to make a habit of serving up late game home runs.

The Cardinals continued their hot play, beating the Dodgers 3-2 and pushing the Cubs to six games back. Colorado also won, also pushing the Cubs back 4 games in the wild card. Neither deficit is impossible to overcome but the light at the end of the tunnel is dim and nights like these make four games or six games look like a mountain.

 
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