Cubs 4, Nationals 2
What Went Right
- Boom Goes the Dynamite The Cubs’ bats exploded for 10 hits tonight, including 2 doubles (Soriano and Barney) and 3 home runs (Soto, Johnson, and Soriano). They also took 3 walks (Soto, Barney, and Soriano again). Johnson went 4-4, and Soriano had one of his better nights in recent memory. In fact, with his homer tonight he’s now got at least 20 home runs in the last ten seasons–no small accomplishment. I’m tempted to say something here about how if he could perform like that consistently, then we might be able to move him, but who am I kidding? Years from now, when Soriano is still playing an atrocious LF for the Cubs and swinging his bat at balls in the dirt the way old men wave metal detectors at the beach, we’ll look back on nights like this one wistfully and remember the “good ol’ days.”
- That’ll Do, Rodrigo. That’ll Do. Rodrigo Lopez continues to perform about as good as you could expect from a trash-heap reclamation project. He’s still sporting a high ERA, and he doesn’t get us very deep into games, regularly requiring a few innings of bullpen support. But tonight, that was enough for him and the Cubs to get the win.
- Shutting the Door And the Cubs gave Lopez the bullpen help he needed tonight. Samardzija, Marshall, and Marmol combined for 3.1 innings of scoreless relief. Marmol looked particularly strong, with three strikeouts for the save. And since I’ve highlighted Samardzija’s various failures in this space plenty of times, I suppose I should point out that he’s been pretty good lately. In his 5 appearances in August, he hasn’t allowed any runs and only 3 hits, while striking out 7. If Jim Hendry’s not too busy with not doing his job, he might want to put Samardzija on waivers and see if there’s a contender who needs bullpen help badly enough to part with a prospect. And as a bonus, tonight Samardzija was even able to borrow a bat someone’s helmet to take his 4th at-bat of the season, and show us what kind of lessons he’s learned in the Carlos Zambrano School for Pitchers Who Can’t Hit Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.
What Went Wrong
- Oops, I Did It Again Castro had an error in the top of the 1st that allowed the Nationals to score their first run. And in the bottom of the inning, he ran into an out at 2nd base after he tried to stretch a deflected infield single into a double. My guess is he was hoping to make up for the error. But even if you don’t grant him a little grace for (possibly) good intentions, I think we sometimes make too much out of Castro’s mistakes. Cal Ripkin Jr. was in the WGN booth briefly tonight, and he talked a little about the time it takes for young players to develop. In fact, when Cal was 21 (like Castro is now) he had 19 errors (Castro picked up his 19th tonight). Ripkin also recorded 25 errors when he was 22, 26 Es when he was 23 and 24, 20 Es when he was 26, 21 Es when he was 27, and 22 Es when he was 36, and he still managed to make it into the Hall of Fame. I’m inclined to say that most, if not all of Castro’s problems can be remedied by experience and repetition.
- We Can Build On This! Future Cubs’ building block and noted LHP-hitting dynamo Jeff Baker got the start over Carlos Pena tonight. He went 0-3 before being replaced in the eighth inning by Pena, who also went 0 for his one at-bat. Since June 1st, Baker’s hitting below .200, proving he’s exactly the kind of player we should be protecting for future seasons.
Just a word about the Santo statue ceremony–it looks good, capturing Ron at 3rd making an off-balance throw. The unveiling ceremony, which you can view here, was classy and appropriate. Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, and Billy Williams spoke, and many of the current Cubs showed up in their PASS10N t-shirts to honor Santo. Perhaps best of all, Ron’s widow mentioned that the Cubs had informed him prior to his death about their plans for the statue. So even if he didn’t live to see it, he got to enjoy the knowledge that he was going to be immortalized at Wrigley. I can’t wait to see it in person.
A win is a win, so I won’t complain–especially when it provided such a fitting end to the day. But as the season slips closer and closer to official futility, I would like to see the young guys get some more starts. We can make the most of the garbage time left this year by seeing what Colvin, Campana, and some of the other guys can do with some consistent playing time. In another lost season, there’s still a lot we can accomplish.
Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)
1st Star – Alfonso Soriano (.240 WPA)
2nd Star – Sean Marshall (.177 WPA)
3rd Star – Reed Johnson (.158 WPA)