Monday, April 18

4-18-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Stealing 2 from the Pirates

A solid weekend from the Cubbies. After losing friday night to a rather unfortunate blowup by the Bullpen (Remlinger in particular) in the 8th Inning, they rebounded strongly and stole two close games 4-3 and 4-2 respectively.

Sunday's Boxscore - Cubs 4, Pirates 2

++ Pitching Staff
As is the Cubbies' penchant for slow offensive starts and games in which it falls on one man to provide the RBIs for the day, the pitching staff was solid and superb this weekend. Aside from the 8th Inning on Friday (3 go-ahead runs for the Pirates in the 8th Inning, providing the final margin of victory, 8-5), the starters and bullpen provided the kind of tight pitching that keeps them in the game. Given the anaemic offense at times, it is crucial to their chances of success that the pitchers keep the other team close, close enough for those late-inning clutch hits that Derrek Lee (GW 2-RBI single in the 8th Inning yesterday) and Neifi Perez (GW RBI double in the 7th on Saturday) have been heroes for.

Weekend's Staff Heroes:
LaTroy Hawkins - 2 IP, H, K (2 Saves)
Glendon Rusch - 1 2/3 IP, H, K
Greg Maddux - 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 K

++ Part-Time Players
Jason Dubois, Neifi Perez, two guys who will get playing time but at the moment aren't necessarily figuring as everydayers at their positions, gave excellent accounts of themselves during the at-bats they saw.

Dubois, a platoon outfielder being used mostly as a swap with Hollandsworth in LF, was 1-2 with a 2-run HR in Friday's 8-5 loss. Neifi Perez, batting .417 since Walker's injury, hit the game-winning RBI double on Saturday, not the first clutch hitting performance he's enjoyed this week (In the Padres doubleheader, Perez went 6-9 with 3 runs).

It is good to see some competition at their positions. Hollandsworth has been slow out of the gate so far this season with the bat (.250, HR, 5 RBI, 12 K in 11 games), Nomar is trying too hard (.182, 4 RBI, 7 K after an amazing spring) and Jerry Hairston Jr. (2B/CF: 5-18, 0 RBI) is suffering from the "New Man on Campus" feeling. What was once a steady lineup might soon enter a bit more competitive flux given the bench making the most of limited opportunities.

-- Catchers not catching fire at the plate
Michael Barrett is suffering through a hit-less week, going 0-13 in the 4 games he played (including 0-6, 6 LOB vs. the Pirates). Henry Blanco went 0-4 in Sunday's win, striking out once, and has yet to record a hit so far in this young season (0-11, 3 K in 3 starts).

Considering the bulk of Pirates' 8 runs on Friday came from the 7 & 8 spots (3B Bobby Hill and C David Ross: 5-8, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI), it demonstrates the importance of scratching up some offense from the top to the bottom of the lineup. Right now, all offensive threats stop at Lee, and opposing teams are resting easy in the knowledge that there are 3 easy outs once Derrek's back in the dugout.


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