2-week absence, the CubBlog makes its triumphant return. So what did I miss?
played 13 games in 14 days, winning 9 and dropping 4, bringing them to
a season high 20 games over .500 at 45-25.
The stretch included a 3-0 record at home, and more importantly, a 6-4
record on 2 road trips. The Cubs have 13
of their next 19 on the road (3 on the Southside), so keeping up their winning
ways away from Wrigley will be extremely important.
So what did we learn from these past two weeks?
1. The rotation is improving
Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, the rest of the rotation had been a bit
suspect through the first 2 months of the season. Ted Lilly opened the season with an ERA near
10, Jason Marquis couldn’t get past the 5th inning, and the 5th
starter spot was a mess until Sean Gallagher claimed it in late May. Since then, Marquis has gone 3-0, Lilly is
2-1 (his only loss was a 2-1 defeat), and while Gallagher has gone 0-2, he has not
allowed more than 3 runs in any start. The
Cubs are considering going after another starter (I’ve heard anywhere from C.C. Sabbathia to Randy Wolf to Greg Maddux) in the event that Rich Hill
doesn’t make it back to the majors this year, but if the back 3 of the rotation
continue to pitch this well, it may not be necessary, although you can never
have too much pitching.
2. Jim Edmonds reads my blog
Seriously, there is no other explanation. Since I blasted him in an entry on May 29th, (Here) all he has done is gone 18-for-44 (.409), with 2 big HRs and 14 RBIs, while starting 12 games. More importantly, he’s only struck out 3 times in that span. I still have trouble cheering for the guy, as I’m convinced he’s just waiting to drop a crucial fly ball in October and then rip off his Cubs uni to display a Cardinals shirt, but it’s hard to be unhappy when he hits a game-tying opposite field HR in the 9th inning of a game that the Cubs go on to win.
3. Marmol and Wood have pitched a lot
And I mean A LOT. Marmol has appeared in 37 of the Cubs 70 games this year. For those of you who like math, that’s more than half. Bet you thought I was gonna give you a percentage. Well I am, it’s 52.9%. Anyway, in those 37 games, he’s gone 43 innings already. To compare, in all of last season he threw in 59 games, recording just 69 1/3 IP, meaning he’s nearly 2/3 of the way to both games and innings pitched totals from last year.
The comparisons to last year don’t really apply to Woody because he didn’t return from the DL until August 5th. (Editor’s Note: I was at that game and got chills just thinking about it.) But it should be noted that it’s his first full season as a RP, and his 35 appearances this season are more than he has ever made in his career. Yes, he’s only thrown 37 innings, and has done very well in nailing down 18 of 22 save chances. But you have to wonder why he’s made 35 appearances with only 22 save chances. Occasionally a 2-run lead will become a 4-run lead, and there will be the extra-inning game where he needs to pitch in a tie game, but 13 of them already? Seems like a lot.
All this is just to say that while the back end of the bullpen has been outstanding thus far, Lou needs to (and he is) keep an eye on the use of these star relievers so they last into September (and hopefully October).
4. The Cubs will miss Fonzie
Not his defense of course, but his bat. In 38 games since returning from the DL on May 1st, Soriano was batting .323, with 13 HRs, 35 RBIs, and most importantly, 5 SBs, including 3 in his final 7 games leading up to the injury. While that will obviously be missed in the lineup, the Cubs have Lee and Ramirez to pick up the power slack, and Reed Johnson, Ryan Theriot and maybe even Kosuke to fill in at the top.
The silver lining behind this, if we must look for one, is that Soriano will be able to rehab his legs for 6 weeks while recovering from the broken hand. He clearly came back early from his first stint on the DL, and only in the last week did he look like he was regaining his form. Now he has a chance to concentrate on his legs for at least a month, which will hopefully make him a threat on the bases when he returns.
5. The Cubs are never out of any game
I know the immediate thought is of the 10-9 comeback win against Colorado that happened before the 2-week absence, but the Cubs have come back from behind against Atlanta and San Diego in the past two weeks, and had a chance to win every game with the exception of the complete game shutout thrown by Kuroda of the Dodgers. It’s a great feeling to go into the 9th inning with thoughts of a comeback win rather than being resigned to a defeat.
The Cubs are in Tampa tonight for the first of 3 against the AL Wild-Card leading (too early?) Rays. A good matchup tonight between Ryan Dempster and Scott Kazmir will set the tone for the series. After that, the Cubs welcome the Sox for 3 and the Orioles for 3 at Wrigley before finishing up interleague play against those same White Sox at the Cell.