For the purposes of this exercise, let’s go ahead and exclude Cy Young from my list of debut rookie pitchers who have absolutely murdered the Cubs. After all, the man has an award named after him, and he was born, pitched, lived, and died well before the start of my lifetime. Fortunately for me, there are PLENTY of pitchers who fall within the parameters of the T79 who qualify for this honor.
I submit, for your consideration:
- August 6, 1978: Rookie Expos pitcher, Northbrook resident, and later BELOVED Cub Scott Sanderson makes his MLB debut against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Though the Cubs would rally with three runs in the bottom of the 8th to beat the Expos 4-3, the Expo loss was not because of the heroic efforts of Sanderson. The kid pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing 6 hits, 3 walks, and a measly 1 earned run for a miniscule 1.69 ERA. He struck out four Cubs (including Larry Biittner and Manny Trillo!) and even had a base hit off Ray Burris.
- September 15, 1980: A bad Cardinals team sent rookie pitcher Andy Rincon to the mound against an even-worse Cubs team at Wrigley Field. How much worse? Rincon allowed only 5 hits, 2 walks, and 1 earned run on his way to a 5-1 complete-game victory. He fanned 4 Cubs and later went on to become…nothing. He made only fifteen total MLB starts and won eight games over the course of his three-year career. But, holy shit, get this. A year later, Rincon threw the best game of his career, a five-hit, complete-game shutout against the Cubs in St. Louis. Almost exactly one year after that? He gave up only one earned run in a three-hit complete game in Wrigley Field. In his career against the Cubs, Rincon was 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA and ridiculous 0.879 WHIP. I- I probably would have given him his own entry if I’d ever heard of him before today.
- June 2, 1992: The coach was Jim Lefebvre. The starting third baseman was Gary Scott. The center fielder was a young, skinny, speedy Sammy Sosa. There were two Hall of Famers in the Cubs’ lineup. And the rookie that completely dominated them was San Diego Padres starter Frank Seminara. It took Seminara only 82 pitches to hurl his way through 6 1/3 innings. He surrendered not a single run on only 3 hits and 2 walks, and he whiffed 3 Cubs. Though Randy Myers would blow the save for Seminara and Gene Harris would suffer the loss, the Cubs could not touch Seminara.
- July 17, 1995: Everyone’s favorite eventual closer, Jason Isringhausen, was once a rookie starter. Fortunately for him, his rookie start was against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Dallas Green-led Mets were playing some bad baseball, and the flammable breath of catcher Todd Hundley rolled into town in July. Isringhausen was brilliant, pitching 7 strong innings, striking out 6 Cubs, and allowing only 2 hits and 2 earned runs. Though Isringhausen didn’t get the win, the Mets blew the game open late, scoring 5 times in the top of the 9th to win 7-2. The Cubs also committed 4 errors during the game, but THIS ISN’T ABOUT THEM.
- June 14, 1998: When the story is written of Carlton Loewer, the index will have an entry that reads, “Loewer, Carlton, who is.” “Who is,” indeed, made-up index entry. He’s the guy whose career peaked during his 1998 debut against the eventual Wild Card Champion Chicago Cubs. The Cubs faced the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. The right-hander threw only 115 pitches through 9 innings of five-hit baseball. He struck out 8 Cub hitters (miraculously, Jose Hernandez was not one of them) while walking none and surrendering only 2 earned runs. The Phillies won the game 4-2.
- July 23, 1998: How, exactly, did the 1998 Cubs make the playoffs? Oh, right. NEIFI. As long as you were making your MLB debut, the 1998 Cubs could not hit you. Jeremy Powell pitched well enough to earn a win in late July 1998 at Wrigley Field. He gave up only 3 hits and an earned run over 6 innings while striking out 3, but his Expos gave him only a run in support, and he suffered a 2-1 loss against Mark Clark and the Cubs.
- April 9, 1999:In 1999, Pittsburgh Pirate rookie Kris Benson was a bit luckier than Powell. Slotted into the Pirate rotation at the start of the season, Benson’s first start came in Three Rivers Stadium against Scott Sanders and the Cubs. Benson gave up 1 earned run on 2 hits through 6 innings to beat the Cubs 2-1. And it took the 24-year-old only 72 pitches to do it. He then went home and filmed six dudes as they banged the foundation off his fiancee. Later, he cried.
- April 8, 2000: On this site, one wouldn’t think we’d be talking about a rookie pitcher in a game that featured Tarrik Brock, Julio Zuleta, Roosevelt Brown, and Felix Heredia. But in the first example of rookie Reds pitcher dominance of the Cubs, it was Rob Bell who stole this show. Bell struck out 9 Cubs (including Sosa and Henry Rodriguez twice each) in 7 innings while surrendering only 2 walks, 3 hits, and a lone earned run. Though Bell didn’t get the win, Vietnam vet (or something) Danny Graves did in the 11th inning, as the Reds rallied for a 4-3 win.
- August 2, 2001: Certainly you remember this game. Possibly from here. The Cubs were in San Diego, Jeff Fassero came in to the game in the bottom of the 8th to protect a 3-0 lead. Jeff Fassero left the game with the Cubs down 4-3. Ryan Klesko was tangentially involved. What you may have forgotten was that the Padres’ starter that night was Junior Herndon. He was making his MLB debut. He baffled the Cubs through 7 2/3 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 2 earned runs. It wasn’t enough to get him the win, but Klesko certainly should have bought him a steak dinner after the game if Klesko wasn’t such a fucking asshole.
- September 4, 2001: I know if there’s one thing Cubs fans LOVE talking about, it’s former Florida Marlins ace Josh Beckett. If I recall correctly, he pitched in some big games against the Cubs at one point. Surprisingly, however, his best start against the Cubs came in his MLB debut in Pro Player Stadium. The smug little shit bested Cubs starter Jon Lieber by throwing 6 innings of one-hit, shutout baseball. It took Beckett only 85 pitches to fan 5 Cubs and collect his first of 118 MLB wins.
- July 24, 2002: Wives and laser hair removal aren’t the only things that Brett Myers has beaten in his career. As a Phillies rookie in 2002, Myers’ first MLB start came in Wrigley Field against Bruce Kimm’s (holy shit) Chicago Cubs. Another young pitcher by the name of Mark Prior took the mound for the Cubs, but despite his 7 innings and 8 strikeouts, he was outdueled by Myers. Myers took only 90 pitches to get through 8 innings, while striking out 5 and allowing only 1 earned run. Despite putting the tying run on first in the bottom of the 9th, the Cubs couldn’t rally against Phillies closer Jose Mesa. Corey Patterson struck out with two men on, and Myers collected his first MLB win as the Phillies won 4-2.
- May 30, 2004: Ah, the loveable 2004 Chicago Cubs. A team so charming, that you were probably rooting for Pirate rookie Sean Burnett when he faced them in his MLB debut at PNC Park. Though the Pirates got clobbered 12-1, it certainly wasn’t the fault of Burnett, who gave up only 1 earned run in his 5-inning start. NOTEWORTHY: John Grabow got the loss, Jose Macias led off, and David Kelton made a pinch-hitting appearance!
- May 22, 2005: The first-place White Sox roared up the Red Line to take on the second-place (despite being 19-22) Cubs in May of 2005. The Sox sent their so-called phenom Brandon McCarthy up against not-quite-yet-broken-down former Cub phenom Mark Prior. Prior went the distance and gave up three runs, all on solo home runs. McCarthy went 5 1/3, striking out 6 and allowing only 2 earned runs in his team’s 4-3 loss. Somehow, Jason Dubois hit the game-deciding 3-run homer in the bottom of the 6th. What a strange world on which we’re spinning around this galaxy.
- June 6, 2009: So begins the Cincinnati-heavy portion of this post. If there’s one lesson Dusty Baker should have learned throughout the course of his Major League career, it’s “QUIT DESTROYING THE CAREERS AND ARMS OF ALL OF YOUR YOUNG PITCHERS.” If there’s a second lesson he should have learned, it’s, “SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT HANK AARON, ALREADY.” But if there’s a THIRD lesson he should have learned, it’s, “Make sure every rookie pitcher you have debuts against the Chicago Cubs.” In 2009, rookie Matt Maloney made his presence known in the NL Central by allowing only 2 earned runs through 6 innings while striking out 4 Cubs and walking only 1. His Reds beat a Cubs team featuring Jake Fox as their 4-hitter and Bobby Scales as their starting second baseman. So, congratulations, Matt Maloney. You beat the fucking Iowa Cubs.
- April 11, 2010: I understand anticipated debuts. I went to Mark Prior’s first start. I watched Stephen Strasburg’s first start. I know it was a big deal when Reds’ starter Mike Leake made his MLB debut against the Chicago Cubs. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to see his ass get lit up. THAT NEVER HAPPENED. Instead, the Boy Wonder survived 6 2/3 innings of one-run baseball, despite walking 7 Cubs. He struck out 5 with 106 pitches, prompting Dusty to say, “Dude, we were trying to get the kid to 175 in his first start.” The Reds beat the Cubs 3-1 in the Great American Ballpark, despite a brilliant performance by Tom Gorzelanny and the Cubs’ 1-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh. Because that’s what the Cubs do. SUCK.
- July 1, 2010: If I told you that the Reds collected SIXTEEN hits against the Cubs in 2010, yet only managed to score three runs, the first thing you’d probably say would be, “I bet Carlos Silva was pitching,” and you’d be right. The second thing you’d probably say would be, “Surely they won that game, my smugly-nodding friend?” “NO!” I would reply. “If you weren’t such a clod, you’d know the game to which I’m referring is the one in which Travis Wood made his MLB debut!” Then, I would laugh heartily from my throat and my diaphragm, and you’d probably run off crying. To sum up:
Travis Wood: pitching 7 innings of 2-run baseball and winning
Carlos Silva: pitching 7 2/3 innings of 2-run, ELEVEN-HIT baseball and losing
Lou Piniella: sleeping
Dusty Baker: retarding
- May 31, 2011: And now the end is here. And so I face the final rookie pitcher who absolutely destroyed the Cubs in his Major League debut. It happened less than a month ago. It happened, as the story is so often written, in Wrigley Field. It happened with a guy who is, at best, terrible. Who is, at worst, a fart in the wind. Jordan Lyles faced the Cubs in his MLB debut at Wrigley Field. Perhaps you recall this game. Carlos Zambrano was brilliant, pitching 8 innings, striking out 7 Astros, walking none, and giving up only 1 run. Unfortunately for Big Z, his team ran into the UNSTOPPABLE FORCE that is Jordan Lyles. Lyles went 7 innings, struck out 4 Cubs, and gave up only 2 earned runs. As good as the rookie was, he was in line for his first MLB loss after 8 innings. The Cubs led 3-1, when Carlos Marmol came in to close out the game. Carlos gave up 6 earned runs on 5 hits and a walk in just 1/3 of an inning. The Cubs lost 7-3 in the second game of a 3-game sweep by the terrible Astros at Wrigley Field.
Why You Should Hate Them: It’s a rookie pitcher making his MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT. If ever there was an opportunity to pound some timid pitching, it would be when a rookie pitcher has to face a far-more-experienced team. Yet the Cubs are BAFFLED by these guys. Hell, I didn’t even include the way-above-average-for-a-rookie MLB debuts of Javier Vazquez and Edgar Ramos. And keep in mind, I’m not THAT old. I went back to 1978. Between the time Cy Young threw his 3-hit debut and 1978, certainly there were impressive debut starts against Cubs. Mind blowing.
I- I have to stop there. So, with those 2,000+ words in the book I leave you, my friends, to drink away the sadness that was the 45th entry to the T79.