If it wasn't for a great pitching performance by Zach Duke on Saturday night, the Cubs would be off to an 8-3 start. WOW! Change the mood ring! Still, if you would have told me this team would be 7-4 after 11 ballgames, I would have taken it. I am very happy to see this start considering the shape of the Cubs starting pitching staff.
Over the weekend the Cubs got good solid starting performances from Jerome Williams and Glendon Rusch. Williams made the most impressive start of the weekend (and maybe the season), but he had the misfortune of being matched up with Zach Duke. That's baseball right. The Pirate lefty was nasty Saturday night. Williams matched Duke, but a Ronny Cedeno error ended up costing him. Rusch, who had many of us screaming for the callup of Angel Guzman will make sure he gets another couple of starts with his performance on Sunday. The veteran lefty went 6 innings allowing 5 hits, 1 bb, 3 runs (all earned), while striking out 5 en route to his first win of the season.
So 11 games into the seaon what do we know?
The kids are holding their own. Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno are doing a good job at the bottom of the Cubs lineup. (as dc60123 reminds us, we should all "heart orange guy.") Over the weekend Murton played a big role in the Cubs Friday night win with a bases loaded triple and he had the lone RBi in the Saturday loss. So far for the year Murton's hitting .310 with 9 RBi. He has gotten a bunch of clutch hits for this club. Ronny Cedeno has been frustrating in the field. He's making the tough plays, but like so many young players he's struggling with the routine play. Still he's hitting better(.341) than any of us could have predicted. Young Sean Marshall is surviving in the Cub rotation. Yeah, it has been a baptism by fire for the 23 year old southpaw (1-0, 7.71 ERA). But the Cub offense has supported the youngster in his two starts (including 11 runs on Friday night, his first big league win).
The offense is carrying the load. So far this year the offense has carried the load. Even with injuries to Jones, Ramirez, Mabry and Pagan the offense has been able to put up enough runs to win. Michael Barrett, DLee, Todd Walker and the two kids have all done their part. Slow starts by Ramirez and Pierre aside, the Cub offense has done the job.
Where would this team be without #31? 40 year old Greg Maddux has given the Cubs two quality starts. Winning both. With Z struggling and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood making simulated starts, the future hall of famer has been the ace of the Cub pitching staff. It really is scary to imagine where the northsiders would be without him.
The bullpen is much improved. Jim Hendry's acquisitions of Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre are looking big early. With the Cub starting rotation struggling early the bullpen has been called upon early and often. Scott Eyre has already went 2 innings three times this season (he did it once all of 2005).
Team looks more focused. This is easy to say when a team is winning. Still the Cubs have had more talent on the field in previous years and not played this well. Since Dusty became manager in 2003 this team has been surrounded by distractions. They still are -the injuries to two starting pitchers- but they are not making excuses. The team is going out and not beating itself. That's a welcome change.
I know, it's only 11 games. Now the Cubs whacky road trip takes them to LA.