Cubs 5 @ Astros 1

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

The Good  Travis Wood pitched what might be his best game of the season Wednesday night in Houston. Through seven and two-thirds innings, only four Astros had reached base, and none of them made it to second base safely. And while he didn’t make it out of the eighth inning and was eventually charged with a run, he had Bob and Len and most Cubs fans thinking he could go the distance. If not for a long face off at-bat against Brandon Barnes that culminated in a double, Wood would have mostly coasted through eight innings of Astros hitters. This was the kind of night that makes Cubs fans feel better about the Sean Marshall trade.

The Gooder  On any other night, Wood might have been the dominant storyline. But Wednesday night, the spotlight belonged to Alfonso Soriano. He walked (I know!) in the first to extend the inning and advanced to second when Welington Castillo’s single got the scoring started. He homered in the fifth to take the score to 2-0. And he doubled in the seventh and the ninth innings–although he was incorrectly called out at second base in the seventh, so he only got credit for a single, leaving him a triple short of the cycle for the evening. After his second double (you heard me, second base umpire Kerwin Danley!), he was removed for a pinch runner–Mr. Katie Campana himself, who promptly stole third base and scored on a bad throw from the catcher.

But back to Soriano, whose big night wasn’t limited to just the plate. He also made a huge, run-saving play in the bottom of the fifth to steal a double off the wall from Matt Dominquez and double Justin Maxwell off of first with a relay assist from über-fielder Darwin Barney). And it wasn’t just a great catch and throw–he slammed into Minute Maid Park’s left field scoreboard/fence/monstrosity to make the play (I know!). Seriously, it’s worth the forty-six or so seconds that it takes to watch this video.

We’ve mentioned this a couple times already, but Soriano is simply a different fielder this year. And while I’m sure some of the credit goes to Dale and Dave McKay for finally getting through to him, hats off to Soriano for the work he’s clearly put in. Many of us (most of us?) never thought he’d be anything less than a frequent liability and occasional pleasant surprise in left field, but the way he’s developed (I KNOW!) has been a revelation. In his past seasons with the Cubs, there’s simply no way he makes that play–in fact, he probably boots the ball and plays it into a triple. Whatever he’s doing/taking to cure him of his crippling fear of outfield walls, let’s keep it coming.

The Bad  Shawn Camp is bad at pitching. He tried hard Wednesday night to give away a lead and waste Wood’s solid start. Fortunately for the Cubs, he couldn’t even do that right.

The Badder  It’s no secret that this season has tried the patience of even the most loyal and optimistic Cubs fans. While we haven’t talked about it internally, I’m sure most if not all the other VFTB writers are having the same trouble I am coming up with interesting story ideas and opinions while the season slinks to a close. But we’re not being paid to do it–Len Kasper, on the other hand, is paid (I know, I know…). And yet to listen to the broadcasts, you’d think he had a gun to his head keeping him in the booth. Look, I get it–162 games is a lot of time to fill, especially when the team you’re covering has been out of the race for about 152 of them. But show some dadgum signs of life, man! Kasper has a job most Cubs fans would push an old lady into traffic for–he needs to tear up his diploma from the Joe Buck School For Kids Who Can’t Broadcast Good and snap out of it. I’ll even kick in a couple bucks for a new book of hackneyed jokes and puns if that’s what it takes to liven him up for the last couple weeks.

The Ugly  Astros pitcher Mickey Storey had a rough night, taking a Dave Sappelt line drive off the side of his face. He was able to leave the field under his own power. But as we saw in the Brandon McCarthy incident a couple days ago, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s out of the woods just yet (McCarthy seems to be in good shape, and has already been discharged from the hospital). The good news is he appeared to break the impact of the ball with the side of his hand before it hit him in the jaw. We’ll know the full extent of his injuries in the days ahead–in the meantime, it’s a good reminder for any pitchers out there, regardless of what competitive level you play at, keep your heads up.

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