Thursday, April 14

4-14-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs/Padres Doubleheader

A long and emotionally up-and-down day for the Cubbies. The games has a sort of Jekyll and Hyde quality for both squads - each got to taste dominance, each got to taste suppression. I will tackle these games as one big entity, for the major points are relevant to both.

Game One:
Cubs 3, Padres 8
W - J. Peavy (1-0) L - K. Wood (0-1)

Game Two:
Cubs 8, Padres 3
W - M. Prior (1-0) L - B. Lawrence (0-2)

+ Wood and Prior
Despite the box score line for Wood in Game 1 (6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 6 K), it's good to have him in the rotation. I like to call it (well at least now I do) the "Curt Schilling" syndrome - it's better to have him on the mound even though he's haunted somewhat by recent injuries than to have him sitting in the dugout for 2 months or more of the season. Early control problems really set him back - when you consider he threw 112 pitches in his outing, about 40 of those came in the first inning. So did 4 of those 6 runs. Before the game, Ron Santo mentioned how it was a "pitcher's day" due to the swirling winds that would keep long fly balls in the park and convert them into long outs. This was not the case for poor Kerry, giving up 3 Home Runs (1 to 3B Geoff Blum, 1 to Brian Giles, who is 6-7 vs. Wood, 5 of those hits being HRs, and 1 to Ryan Klesko) during his outing. He will improve, and with a steadily-improving offense (who would have noticed Corey Patterson is running a 9-game hitting streak?), Wood's numbers will settle to a more respectable level.

In contrast, Prior blew me away yesterday. I did not expect this, although I imagined something close. I even benched him on a couple of Fantasy Baseball teams because I wanted to watch closely and not risk a performance similar to his last rehab outing in the minors (giving up 7 ER or so over 6 IP I think - feel free to correct me if anyone knows the specific numbers). Regardless of this, he was stellar. 6 IP, 4 H, BB, 6 K, 92 pitches. He was leaving the Game 1-potent Padres offense in the lurch, stunning them with his full range of pitches: fastballs, breaking balls, his nasty slider. This is extremely promising, as it seems to be widely acknowledged (ESPN's baseball experts, for example) that the Cubs have little to no chance without Wood and Prior in the rotation. I think Prior's successful return will have a positive and galvanizing effect on the rest of the pitching staff, and we know what a strong starting 4 or 5 will mean. I can see it now....

Prior, Wood, Maddux, Zambrano

.... who could face that lineup week in, week out?

++ Selected Offense
Despite suggestions that Jerry Hairston Jr. would be the everyday replacement for the injured Walker, how about Neifi Perez? The 2B/SS backup went 6-9 in the doubleheader, scoring 3 runs. He might be a valuable asset as an everyday player, whether spelling Nomar (1-4, K, 2 LOB in game One) or as a regular 2B. Either way, it's nice to know that the depth in the middle Infield is there - we didn't get to see too much of the recently called-up Fontenot (scored a run in Game One as a PR, 0-0 and walked in Game Two), but this gives us hope that Walker's absence will not leave too big a hole to be filled.

Derrek Lee had another hit spurt, going 3-6 with a 2B, HR, and 6 RBI to boot through both games. Good to see him swinging and swinging well.

Corey Patterson also had a HR, and maintained his hitting streak (9 or 10 games) by reaching base safely in both (went 2-9 for the day). It's important that the Cubs have a solid lead-off man who is making it on-base (Corey's OBP is .341 for the year so far), and Corey might be the guy again.

++ Fielding
Thank you Jeromy! A couple of excellent plays in the field today, including a diving catch to rob Giles of extra bases. Looks like he is understanding the foibles of playing right field at Wrigley Park.

Not only that, but C Michael Barrett threw out another base-runner stealing second, this time LF Ryan Klesko. He was unable to stop Loretta stealing twice in the game, but he is still looking sharp behind the plate nonetheless.

-- Errors
4 errors overall today, compared to 0 for the Padres, all of them through rushed throws and off-balance attempts to make the big plays. In the overall scheme of things we might not know whether or not they would have made a huge difference (although 3 did come in the Game One 8-3 loss), but it doesn't help your team get back in the game from an early 5-0 hole in the 2nd Inning. I'm sure this won't be a huge problem throughout the season, but it is still something to think about.


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