4-21-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 3, Cardinals 1
4 wins in 5 games!
The Cubs love being on TV. Like some rag-tag bunch of troubled teens, they shook off any issues surrounding their season so far and took on the evil, well-dressed and menacing Cardinals lineup. While the St. Louis starter, Jeff Suppan (Career: 79-85, 4.79 ERA) didn't provide the biggest threat, the Cubs took him on and Zambrano took on the monstrous task of facing Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen every 3 innings or so.
As it stands, Zambrano did not care.
++ Carlos Zambrano
As of today, LB will begin a nationwide search for a quality nickname for this legend, this brilliant ballplayer in blue and red. He was phenomenal again last night, going 8 2/3 Innings and scattering 5 hits and a Pujols solo HR out amongst 118 pitches (88 for strikes, an incredible ratio). In addition to pitching heroics, the man himself added a 1-3 night at the plate including an RBI triple in the 2nd Inning.
Leaving the game due to a burst blood blister on his pitching hand (a by-product of his two-seam fastball grip), he received a mild ovation even from the die-hard Cardinals fans for his performance. Copying his point-to-the-sky as he left the field, one definitely got the impression that he acquitted himself well in the most hostile of environment. What St. Louis would do for a pitcher like Zambrano, I can only imagine.
I like him so much because of his heart. He pitches on emotion, whatever those emotions are. With Zambrano, there is no cool/calm/collectedness that other top pitchers covet - he wears his heart on his sleeve and that almost always translates into inspiring outings against the toughest teams at crucial times.
Kerry Wood - wake up and take notes!
I'll leave the final word to Cardinals RF Larry Walker:
"He pitched good and we didn't hit. So, it was a bad combination."
Thank you, Larry.
Now, this might not seem sporting of me, but his injury is a good thing. I agree with Jim on this one... he could use some time away from the field to get himself back in the frame of mind to play baseball. In a post-game interview, Dusty sounded sorry to see him hurt, given the selflessness of Nomar to volunteer moving down the order, but it really isn't that bad.
In his place, Neifi Perez, who has been hitting solidly and making excellent plays in the field (9th Inning Wednesday, made a tough grab and throw for the out @ 1st to keep Pujols off base, although was 0-5 in the game), and he will be a more-than-able substitute for Garciaparra in the interim.
Nomar has been struggling so far this regular season, hitting .157 with 4 RBI, 9 K and 23 LOB, and some time in the rehab room might help settle his mind and allow him to refocus on what it is he needs to do - take some of the self-imposed pressure of being Nomar off his shoulders, and just get back to fitness on his own terms. He will be a force for the Cubbies this season, depending on his return, but some quiet time to reflect away from the spotlight might help him more than seeing him struggle at the plate night after night.
++ Derrek Lee
For the record, voting for the All-Star Game has begun, and this man deserves all our votes. Spread the word, D-Lee needs to be an All-Star.
He batted 3-4 with 2 doubles and a stolen base on wednesday, menacing the Cardinals and scoring 2 of the 3 winning runs. When you put yourself on base, you give your team a chance to win. Burnitz and Ramirez brought him home and gave the Cubs the necessary cushion for victory.
I know I am clutching at straws here, but with good reason. When Hawkins entered the game, Scott Rolen was at 2nd base and John Mabry was at the plate. Mabry got hold of a pitch and drove it deep into center field. I could feel my life flash before my eyes. Would LaTroy squander Zambrano's hard work? Thankfully enough, Corey Patterson caught it at the wall, his back pressed up against the padding, ending the game and allowing me to breathe again.
So why is this negative? The final margin of victory was 2 runs, and one hit almost erased that. Looking at the game as a whole, the Cubs left 7 runners in scoring position with 2 outs. That might seem fairly benign, but when the the Cubs were in Arizona in the opening series, the D-backs scored 7 of their 8 runs in an 8-1 win with 2 outs. Those stats can seem fairly banal and unimportant, but no doubt we would have been chastizing the batting lineup this morning if Mabry had managed to add just 6 or 7 feet to his long fly-out that ended the game. It could have been a tied game, but when you knock in the RISPs regardless of how many outs are left, these things don't even enter yr mind.