Friday, August 10, 2007

That's More Like It

Last night the Cubs won their first game since Alfonso Soriano was placed on the disabled list, snapping a four game losing streak at the hands of the Rockies. It was a laugher in Colorado, and boy did this team need it in the worst way. The Cubs jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the top half of the second and never looked back. When the fat lady finished her song, the Cubs had scored 10 runs to Colorado’s 2, on the strength of 16 hits. Every starting position player in the lineup collected at least one base hit, with the exception of the slumping Derrek Lee, who is now just 2 for his last 22 at the plate.

D- Lee aside, there are a lot of positives to take out of last night’s game. With Milwaukee idle, the Cubs moved to within a half game of first place. More importantly, they looked good doing it.

The riot went 2 for 4 from the dish, and is now 8 for 18 since taking over the top spot in the lineup. Needless to say, Alfonso Soriano will be missed dearly for the rest of this month, but for the time being I won’t mind seeing Theriot hit leadoff. With his patient, contact oriented approach, he really does fit the leadoff mold to a tee. I have heard from a lot of different people all year that Theriot should’ve been hitting first from Day 1. While I have never been a huge fan of Soriano leading off, I can’t honestly say I was one of those people. In fact, I think now would be a pretty good time to cop to the fact that I’ve never been a big Theriot fan. As a matter of fact, I could probably be quoted as saying that he would be a bench player at best. Obviously there is a lot of baseball yet to be played, but at this point it would appear as though I have been proven wrong in a big way. Hopefully he can keep this up and continue to be the Cubs’ version of David Eckstein. While it’s unlikely that upon Soriano’s return Theriot will continue to hit leadoff, that isn’t necessarily because it’s the right thing to do.

In his first start since returning to the big club, Felix Pie doubled twice, hopefully buying a little bit longer of a leash with Sweet Lou (one of those doubles was a near HR to the deepest part of cavernous Coors Field). With Felix taking over CF, Jacque Jones found himself back in RF where he is probably more comfortable. Maybe that had something to do with him going 4 for 5 with 4 ribbies.

Rounding out the outfield, Matt Murton homered for his second time since being recalled from Iowa. I know most readers here aren’t big Murton fans, but it’s worth mentioning that along with the 2 homers, he’s hit .320 since his promotion. I’ve been saying since Opening Day that Murton belongs in our starting lineup. Obviously things haven’t gone well for him this year, but I really think that has more to do with his sporadic playing time than anything else. At the very least, Murton can, in my humble opinion, out hit Cliff Floyd—or Shannon Stewart for that matter—right now. That’s if he sees consistent ABs. And given how badly we’ll need offense in the absence of Alfonso Soriano (and Aramis Ramirez?) that’s more important than anything else—even if it means putting up with his defense (which, as long as he’s in LF, isn’t that bad in my opinion).

Back to last night, Jason Kendall also got in on the action in a big way, going 3 for 5, including an RBI triple. Don’t look now, but since coming to Chicago, Kendall has hit .304, and has been his usual self drawing plenty of walks, while catching a solid game. While the writers at this page weren’t exactly thrilled with the acquisition of our declining catcher, GM made a money call on Kendall bouncing back. This from the comments thread following the Kendall trade:

Why do I sense a GM babip examination of Kendall's offensive year thus far?

GM: only because you asked (insert name of 1060 frequenter we have all come to know and love).

kendall is ytd .243 babip on 18.7% linedrives -- he really should improve. note too that his ld% is a few percent low for him.

this is a guy who is still capable of hitting 270/330/320 the rest of the way -- no power, but he catches without being a total liability with the stick. you just can't say that about bowen, hill or soto at this point, regardless of what you believe may be true in time.

Depending on your point of view, GM’s statement may have actually been more of stating the obvious. But of course, there are still plenty of readers here who still don’t buy the idea that BABIP tells you anything. That last bit is dedicated to those people.

Once again, back to the game. Not only was the offense in high gear last night, but the pitching was good too. Ted Lilly battled through some early control issues, (I thought Ed Montague’s strike zone was inconsistent) but finished with a strong 6 innings of work en route to his 13th victory of the season. After Lilly, Kerry Wood (3 scoreless appearances since coming off the DL. Keep your fingers crossed.), Carlos Marmol, and Bob Howry combined for 3 hitless/scoreless innings of relief.

All things considered, I think it’s fair to say that last night’s victory possibly got the proverbial monkey off the Cubs’ backs. With the past few days going about as bad as they possibly could have, I’m obviously trying to point out positives. But with that said, one win does not fix everything. Yes, the Cubs picked up a half game on Milwaukee. And yes, it’s possible that last night will serve as the catalyst to a new winning streak. Hopefully that will be the case. But it‘s questionable as to whether or not the Cubs will continue to score runs like they did last night. You have to take into account that last night’s starter wasn’t exactly Jake Peavy. Also, the two errors Colorado’s normally sure handed defense made certainly had a hand in last night’s blowout. If the run scoring struggles resurface tomorrow, we’ll all just have to hope Milwaukee continues to play as poorly as they have of late. And pray long and hard that Aramis Ramirez does not need to go on the DL.

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