Messy Mets just the tonic as Cubs win 11-1
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com May 24, 2011 10:40PM
Alfonso Soriano slides safely past Mets catcher Ronny Paulino, who couldn’t handle a throw from Daniel Murphy in the second inning. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP
Updated: August 31, 2011 12:38AM
For most of the last week, it seems, the Cubs have had non-stop injuries, setbacks and general roster woes to discuss and explain.
And then Tuesday night, not long after general manager Jim Hendry finished a long list of disabled-list and rehab updates, sudden perspective dawned like a break in the clouds over a gray Cubs season.
As in, it could be a lot worse. As in, they could be the Mets.
Desperate for a bounce-back showing during a homestand filled with also-ran opponents, the Cubs got a rare quality start and a rarer five-run inning, then watched the New York Mets steal a clip from the Cubs’ fielding laugh track in an 11-1 Cubs victory.
‘‘Certainly, we don’t feel anything we’ve had here is devastating enough to hang your head and throw in the towel and feel sorry for ourselves,’’ Hendry said after announcing his top starting pitcher was headed to the disabled list and giving an update on the bruised retina and broken cheek of his All-Star center fielder, who could be sidelined for months after Saturday’s horrifying beaning in Boston.
‘‘We’ve got a very important homestand here, and we have to make some hay here. We’re going to go on a rough road trip after that. And we’ve only played well in spurts, but played well enough in spurts to realize we’re capable of doing better.
‘‘And it’s just time to do that, and it’s not time to make excuses.’’
To that end, it might be the perfect time for a visit from the Mets, who have spent the last several days dealing with fallout from owner Fred Wilpon’s just-released controversial comments in a pair of magazine stories.
In a New Yorker article, Wilpon ripped several of his players, including Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, and called his Mets ‘‘a sh---y team.’’
The Mets did nothing to prove him wrong Tuesday, committing three errors that led to five unearned runs, including four in the Cubs’ five-run second. And that didn’t count the soft fly by Aramis Ramirez that second baseman Ruben Tejada dropped in that inning for a ‘‘hit.’’
But more than that, Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster (3-4) gave the Cubs their first quality start in a week — and first in nearly two weeks that didn’t belong to Matt Garza, who went on the DL.
Dempster pitched seven of his strongest innings of the season at a time the Cubs needed it the most, considering he and Carlos Zambrano are the only two active pitchers left from the Cubs’ opening rotation.
The four starts they’ll get in the first eight games of this homestand could be the keys to whether the Cubs get through May with their optimism intact.
‘‘It falls on some of our starting pitching,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘Z and Demp, we’re obviously going to need them huge this homestand, along with everybody else. I think everybody understands the situation.’’
And it’s obviously not as bad as the Mets’ situation — which includes massive debt, a $1 billion lawsuit related to Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme and Wilpon’s assertion to Sports Illustrated that the Mets are ‘‘bleeding cash’’ and could lose $70 million this year alone.
And Cubs fans thought their team’s $130 million payroll was an upside-down equity problem.
For one night at least, there was reason for bigger-picture perspective, if not a sliver of hope.
‘‘We’ve played poorly enough that we could be in a lot worse shape than we’re in,’’ Hendry said. ‘‘And the flip side of that is we’ve shown enough to be able to compete with the better teams, certainly in our division and the league, and that should make us feel like we’ve got a shot.’’