4-Game Win Streak!!!
Hello, all, I return to you after a long weekend in the Big Apple, a weekend which saw me at Yankee Stadium for the 17-1 rout by the Red Sox (I got to witness my first Grand Slam, thanks, Renteria!) and the Memorial Bender in Brooklyn, which included the consumption of large quantities of whiskey and beer with everyone's favorite limey, JT. Ah, rooftop shenanigans, may they never cease...
4.25 hours and 17 dead roadside deer from Brooklyn I was happily parked on my couch watching the first of the Cubs' West Coast road trip. And it was good from the get-go. Hairston put the second pitch he faced in the left field bleachers for an early 1-0 lead, and the Cubs rolled downhill the rest of the way. Maddux put together a solid outing, allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, through 6 innings. On two separate occassions Maddux showed with great reflexes why he has earned 14 Gold Gloves in previous seasons.
One of these plays was when Derrek Lee (fellow Gold Glover and well-respected for his defensive capabilities) stopped a sharply hit ground ball with a diving catch towards second. Laying on his chest with feet flailing above the ground behind him, he didn't have enough time to stand up and make a good throw to 1st for the out, so he simply rolled onto his back and tossed it to Maddux who was running over to cover first. The throw was somewhat behind Maddux, who quickly made the adjustment to glove the toss and step on the bag in time for the out. If I make no sense to you, watch Baseball Tonight or Sportcenter, because that play was probably a Web Gem.
The other play showcasing Maddux's reflexes happened when a line drive was hit (gasp!) directly at his head! Talk about lady luck gunning for the Cubs pitchers! Luckily Maddux, unlike Prior (or Borowski for that matter, the other Cub pitcher who has been plunked so far this year), is a control pitcher rather than a power pitcher. He has better mechanics when he throws the ball, and always ends a pitch square with homeplate and with both feet planted. This allows him more control of his body if he needs to react to a ball hit near him, and in this case, he was able to duck out of the way at the last possible millisecond. He had to hear that ball whizzing by his ear as he moved.
Other hightlights of this game for me involved Aramis Ramirez continuing to bounce back from a slow start. In his best at bat of the evening he LITERALLY smacked the skin off the baseball with a dinger to left. Barrett also had a solid game, hitting a 2 run homer of his own.
Todd Wellemeyer came into the game in the seventh inning and pitched an impressive 1-2-3 inning. But when he came back out to pitch the eighth, he was clearly having some control issues. That kid can throw a fastball, let me tell you what, but he walked the first two batters of the eighth on 8 straight balls. After a visit to the mound, he managed to get Jason Werth to hit a grounder to short for a much needed double play (after a pretty strong at-bat by Werth). Ohman came in for the final out of the eighth with a runner on third and got JD Drew to hit a grounder to first. Dempster came in to close out the ninth with the score 5-2. His outing was solid, although he did give up a 1-out solo homerun to Olmedo Saenz. However, as I've said before, it is in these kinds of games where we can afford to give up a run, in retrospect of course. Dempster proceeded to fan the next two batters for his 5th save of the season.
The bullpen was impressive to me last night, even given Wellemeyer's struggles in the eighth. He got himself out of the jam with a double play, and Ohman continues to impress. The collective bullpen stats: 3.0 IP, 1 hit, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. I'll take it, especially in a game where they were handed a 3 run lead to protect.
Tonights matchup: The statistically similar Zambino vs. Brad Penny. Let's hope we can keep those bats hot!
Notes: The Cubs lead the majors with 65 homeruns hit and 387 K's by the pitchers. The Cubs have lead the big leagues in K's each of the last 4 seasons. A disclaimer for myself, I paraphrased these notes directly from ESPN.com's Cubs' homepage.