Cubs dodge defeat, Dodgers can't hide from the sweep
The Chicago Cubs, ladies and gentlemen, hottest team in the Major League. Owner of the best current streak at 6 games (the Padres, Rangers and Indians lost, giving us sole position of #1) and 9-1 over the last ten games, the Cubbies rode a tremendous performance by rookie John Koronka in inhospitable waters to sweep the LA Codgers in the series and 9-5 tonight.
John "Duracell" Koronka, called up from Iowa (that short, short drive, as Jim so rightly pointed out) to fill in for Prior, pitched 5 innings, allowing 3 earned runs and striking out 4 through 98 entertaining pitches of work. He nullified the normally dangerous lineup, allowing only a JD Drew RBI double and Olmedo Saenz 2-run HR in his outing, and giving us further reason to believe that this season is not lost. As the commentators pointed out, the reboundability of the Cubs from injury has to be troubling to the rest of the NL - no matter how many important injuries (5 key pitchers, 1 starting infielder) we suffer, we still stick around. Imagine our potential with a full lineup! There are few teams with these woes that can still boast of a record over .500, and it's proof that there is life in the Northsiders yet. I know this is all rose-coloured glasses stuff from me, but hey, until the wheels fall off entirely, it doesn't matter how many flats the car has.
Other standout performers:
Neifi Perez and Derrek Lee -- we should send these guys flowers. Or a trophy. Either way, they've kept the Cubs afloat with timely hits and downright scary power, and tonight was no different. The two combined to form one megahuman, batting 9-10 with 2 HRs, 7 RBI, and 5 runs. The duo were nasty, also combining for several defensive plays, and did one basic but important thing: took advantage of having chances and runners on base. Last night, Neifi did the trick with the winning RBI single, and tonight the pair made the most of having 7 hits from the rest of the team. Lee's 8th Inning 3-run HR (with 2 outs, slamming a 2-1 pitch to left field) was the difference, ending a Dodgers rally from 6-3 down in the previous inning.
Bacon! -- Hollandsworth, as Jim rightly pointed out, deserves a bit of praise. The streaky outfielder went 2-3 tonight with an RBI, a run and a walk, putting up solid numbers and shutting up critics like myself. He also stole a base, proving he is a threat at any place, any time. Nice work, Bacon, nice work.
Sorry to Hypo, whose decision to start Derek Lowe in his fantasy team came unstuck - 5 2/3 IP, 13 H, 6 ER, 3 K -- but you will definitely take solace in yet another impressive win.
Tomorrow night, the Cubs go to San Diego for further West Coast chivalry against one of the hottest teams in baseball. The Padres recorded 20+ wins in the month, and their lineup is a little disgusting: we can look forward to facing Giles, Klesko, Nady, Nevin and Khalil Greene with the bat, not to mention econ-mizers like Peavy and Eaton. Further reports on the upcoming series on their way tomorrow.
Also, in hilarious news, poor old LaTroy Hawkins quickly ended his honeymoon in the Bay Area, picking up his 5th loss of the season in relief. The beleaguered reliever tossed an ugly 8th inning, giving up 4 runs to the Philadelphia Phillies after having watching his team even the score at 6 in the top half of the inning. The Giants lost 10-6 after Hawkins served up a sour pinch-hit Grand Slam to East Pennsylvania's favourite 2nd baseman, Chase "The Face" Utley, and the result leaves us Cub fans slightly relieved to see the Hawkins we knew for lo those many years.