Something happened over the weekend; the Chicago Cubs managed to get worse.
Playing against Bud Selig's new toy, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs gave up 27 runs over three days.
Amazingly, they managed to win a game, a game that at one point, they held a 90 percent chance of winning, that went to 8 percent over the next 4 innings.
Yes, that is the Cubs this year, channeling the ghosts of the 1983 "Winnin' Ugly" White Sox. How else can you explain how the team has managed to avoid slipping into oblivion already this season?
Two improbable wins is how.
Don't forget the comeback against the Pirates. And don't forget the middle game against the Fighting Seligs.
That is the scrappy team that is going to have to win games on the North Side this season, because it certainly hasn't been the middle of the order power doing it.
Fans are cheering for Darwin Barney, who doesn't look like he can bench press his own weight. Fans are cheering for Jeff Baker, who has Mike Quade wishing there were more lefties in the league.
And fans are cheering for a guy who will be an MVP candidate without totaling 50 home runs. He goes by the name of Starlin Castro.
Who aren't they cheering for? How about 90 percent of the pitching staff? Guys who can't get the ball over the plate, or when they do, it gets sent to a kid standing out on Waveland.
That is what is keeping the crowd silent (or encouraging the hecklers to get a little bit louder, take your pick).
It hasn't been pretty and the Cubs should consider themselves lucky that no one in their division has gotten things together so far this season. And lucky that two games have found their results marked on the good side of the ledger.
Star of the series: Starlin Castro
Castro may have allowed his batting average to slip into pedestrian territory at .375, but he continued to set up his team to win during the series.
The only issue that Quade has right now is where to bat him, and compared to the manager's other problems, this issue is peanuts.
He definitely seems most comfortable leading off. While he hasn't been hitting out of the three hole much, it just doesn't seem like he fits in there.
Maybe pitchers know that they can pitch him differently because the middle of the order for the club has been so bad up to this point. They can effectively pitch around Castro when he bats third to get to the power portion of the lineup.
Of course, Starlin likes to swing and isn't going to just let the opposing team walk him without hacking at it. He will put the ball in play, but it will be a pitcher's pitch instead of the one that Castro should be swinging at.
But if Castro bumps back up to the top of the order (and makes his pairing with Barney more effective), where does that put Kosuke Fukudome, who through 14 games is getting on base more than 52 percent of the time?
Fukudome is as unlikely a third spot hitter as Castro, and would face the same challenges in that position in the order. He would even be worse off there because he doesn't have the legs of Castro and would be more likely to ground into double plays.
The Cubs' hands are tied.
What they need right now is for someone among Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, or Marlon Byrd to start hitting again. Just the threat of a tough bat in the middle of the order would provide whoever is shoved into the three spot some cover.
Bottom line, Castro should be leading off, even if he isn't taking the walks. Fukudome does have the better OBP at this point in the season, but Castro is the bigger threat at the top of the lineup. He has the ability to cause more problems for the opposing team when he gets on base (because no one is caring about a 34-year-old with no legs), and right now, the Cubs need any advantage they can get.
A not-so-quick note on: Starting pitching
Last time out against San Diego, no one seemed to be able to touch Carlos Zambrano.
Now granted it was against the Padres, who are currently last in the league in just about every category that you can measure. But it was still a great performance and, as was noted, a rare one for Big Z.
So maybe it should have been a shock when he regressed back toward the mean Sunday against the Seligs. But what was disturbing was how much he regressed.
Perhaps Zambrano can't take as much stress on his arm anymore. Maybe he isn't the 110-pitch workhorse that the Cubs would hope he is.
In the start following both outings when he has gone over 110, he has been miserable. Perhaps he has reached the stage where 100 pitches is his limit. It didn't seem to be that way at the end of last season, but this year, it is trending that direction.
Add in Ryan Dempster's struggles and the Cubs' pitching problems might be bigger than previously thought.
No one can pinpoint why Dempster isn't getting people out this year. There is a chance it is that his velocity has become stagnant, as in his isn't pitching with the same range of speed on his fastball as he has in the past.
The average might have remained the same, but the average is becoming so normal that hitters might be able to time him better than previously.
And that is causing a lot of balls to leave the yard. It is ridiculous to think it will happen, but he is on pace to surrender 62 home runs to opposing players this season.
The Cubs haven't even played the Reds and Cardinals yet. Just imagine what will happen when Joey Votto and Albert Pujols get a chance to tee off on him.
This is definitely not the problem the Cubs thought they would have at the beginning of the season, and it is a one that is not easily fixed.
The team isn't going to outslug many opponents and if they are pressed into that situation, the quest to remain at or around .500 is going to get much more difficult.
Series Record: 1-2
Season Record: 10-11
Projected Record*: 63-99
* Based on runs scored/runs allowed