Still stunned by the abrupt retirement of Lou Piniella, Chicago heads to Nationals Park this evening seeking to win for only the second time in its last eight contests. The club hardly gave the longtime skipper a fitting sendoff on Sunday, dropping a lopsided 16-5 decision to the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.
Piniella had announced earlier this summer that he would step down at the end of the season, but pushed the timetable up in order to attend to his ailing mother in Florida. The 66-year-old has spent the last 48 years involved in baseball as either a player, manager, or broadcaster, and won a total of 1,835 games over 23 seasons piloting five different teams.
"It's a good day to remember and it's also a good day to forget," said Piniella, who guided the 1990 Cincinnati Reds to a World Series title and is one of only five men to win at least three Manager of the Year awards, afterward. "I cried a bit after the game, it was a very emotional day cause it will be the last time I put on a uniform. My experience in baseball has been very special."
Atlanta took a 5-3 lead on Omar Infante's three-run homer off Chicago starter Randy Wells in the fourth inning, then scored 11 times over the final three frames to pull away.
Wells (5-12) was tagged for seven runs (five earned) and three homers before exiting with nobody out in the top of the seventh.
Aramis Ramirez had put the Cubs briefly ahead with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third and finished 3-for-4 in Piniella's finale. Starlin Castro had a four-hit day for Chicago, while Marlon Byrd went 3-for-5 with an RBI single in the loss.
Third base coach Mike Quade will assume managerial duties for the remainder of the season and will send youngster Casey Coleman to the mound for the opener of this set. The rookie will be making his second start in the majors after appearing in four games as a long reliever.
Coleman's starting debut wasn't a success, as the right-hander was reached for three runs on six hits and issued three walks over 4 1/3 innings in a home loss to San Diego last Wednesday. The 23-year-old had performed reasonably well in that role in the minors prior to his early-August callup, compiling a 10-7 record with a 4.07 earned run average in 20 starts for Triple-A Iowa.
He could be throwing to a new battery mate on Monday, as catcher Geovany Soto appears ready to return from a stint on the disabled list due to a sprained right shoulder. The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year has not played since August 6 due to the injury.
While Coleman will be beginning a major league game for only the second time, Washington's Livan Hernandez is set for the 438th start of his lengthy career this evening. The journeyman right-hander has put together a solid season for the last-place Nationals in 2010, having registered an 8-8 record along with a solid 3.06 ERA in 25 games.
One of those victories came at the expense of the Cubs back in April, when Hernandez yielded one run over seven sharp innings in a 3-1 Nationals triumph at Wrigley Field. The effort improved the native Cuban to 11-6 with a 3.84 ERA in 21 lifetime starts against Chicago.
The 35-year-old hasn't shown any signs of wearing down in the second half, as he's delivered an excellent 2.30 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break despite only a 2-3 record. In his most recent assignment, Hernandez limited the Braves to two runs through seven innings in a no-decision this past Wednesday.
Washington has mustered only four runs over Hernandez's past three starts, and the club also did little at the plate in Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals managed just five hits against Roy Oswalt and two Philadelphia relievers in a 6-0 setback, the team's second shutout defeat of the three-game series.
"When you come [to Philadelphia] you know you're going to see a good rotation," said Washington manager Jim Riggleman. "You just have to be ready to go out there and bang out a few runs and we haven't been doing that often enough."
The Nationals went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Sunday and finished a six-game trip against Atlanta and Philadelphia with a 2-4 record.
Scott Olsen (3-6) started and lost yesterday's contest after surrendering four runs and nine hits over six innings of work.
The Nationals took two of three tests from the Cubs at Wrigley Field in April, but Chicago swept a four-game set between the teams in Washington last season.