So This Is What 1st Place Feels Like
They Put Them On The Schedule – Before you jump all over me for being excited about two sweeps in the last week or so over “bad” teams, its important to remember that everyone has the chance to play the Nationals and the Reds. If anything, teams like the Braves, Marlins and Phillies all get to play the Nationals more than we do. No one is harping on them for playing bad teams. If they put these guys on the schedule, it counts just as much to beat them as it does someone else. If you’re going to be a winning team, you need to beat up on the bad teams and strive to play around .500 ball against the good teams. Doing that should be enough to get you into the playoffs. Right now, the Cubs are doing that. They got beat in Philly, but took care of business against the Nats and Reds to compensate for the series loss in Philly. What more can you ask for that for a weekend sweep that leaves us in first place going into a nice series with Houston?
Offense is coming around – Watching the middle of the order today, I was encouraged. Then again, watching them all weekend, I’ve been encouraged. With Derrek Lee out of the lineup today with spasms, you would have thought that perhaps this was going to be the game that would keep the Cubs from sweeping the series. Instead, Ramirez got on three times with a walk and a double. Foxy, despite trying to drive the ball out of the park in his first few at bats, came through with an RBI single. Milton, reached base three times and scored two key runs. Soriano extended his hitting streak to nine games and has seen his average begin to climb toward respectability since moving to the 6th spot in the order. It was definitely encouraging to see Theriot and Ramirez get on base in the 7th to start the inning with 2nd and 3rd and no outs and actually feel like we were going to score a run. In the past, I felt like they would find a way to not score, but those feelings are beginning to subside a little. Thank God for offense.
Who Says He Can’t Pitch During the Day? – Can we use Rich Harden’s success today as evidence that home / road & day / night splits are garbage. I don’t believe in them and never will. It pains me to say it, but doesn’t “sample size” come into play with situations like those? I am a firm believer that, if given the opportunity, players will gravitate toward the mean in their production. Harden is no exception. People this year have complained that he can’t pitch at Wrigley and we’ve even tried to move the order so as to have him pitch on the road. Let’s not forget that last year, Harden was 2-0 in 7 starts at Wrigley with an ERA of 1.80. Did he suddenly forget how to pitch at Wrigley? No!!! No player or team is as good as they are during a hot streak or as bad as they look during a cold streak. Harden had a few hard outings at home and, if given the chance, will regress to the mean at Wrigley and on the road. Today, Harden was flat out nasty over his six innings of work and got a deserved win after pitching a ND against the Phillies on Tuesday. At one point he had struck out five of six hitters and for the most part looked untouchable.
Reds Got Hosed – I use that title, but you probably know that I will never blame the umpires for a game. Don’t put yourself in a position where they can affect the game. That said, I’m not sure if you saw the call at the plate late in the game, but Fukudome’s throw to the plate resulted in a double play to end the 8th, and a potential Red’s rally late, but taking a look at the replay, Dusty had every right to come out and argue that call. It’s one that, if replay was used, would have been reversed. Looking at the replay it was clear that Koyie Hill missed the tag. Bob Brenly mentioned it in the replay that had Encarnacion just ran hard down the line and not looked back so much, the play would not have been near as close as it was.
Who Goes…Who Stays? – Ryan Dempster is slated to come off the DL this week, which prompts the always fun debate about who should be on their way back to the minors. Justin Berg, for the simple fact that he hasn’t pitched yet has to be the prime candidate as does today’s somewhat disappointing Jeff Samardzija. You could make the case that Samardzija is best served to be pitching out of the rotation, which would be the argument for why you should move him back to Iowa. At the same time, he has the experience of pitching, and pitching well, down the stretch in a pennant race. Ultimately, it will probably be Berg who goes, but I would vote for Samardzija for the simple fact that I want him starting as much as possible to help him develop his secondary pitches in hopes of being either a starter for this team or a wicked multi-pitch member of the pen in the late innings. The best place right now to do that is in Iowa.
Is 40 Possible? – Kevin Gregg picked up save # 21 today, with a little over two months to go. is it out of the question for him to make a run at 40 saves on the year? Think about it for a minute before you answer. The Cubs have played bad ball so far and he still has 20. Why couldn’t he pick up one or two more in July and only need like 17 over the last two months plus since the regular season runs into October? Seriously…I think he has a shot. Only two pitchers in the Cubs history have reached that plateau. Randy Myers with his 53 save season in 1993 and Rod Beck in 1998 with 51. Let’s make it happen Kevin. Get it done.