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It's Always the Quiet Ones
by Derek Smart
I couldn't do it anymore. After the top of the fifth in what to that point was a game remarkable only for its lack of anything to remark upon, my body was no longer able to support the 5 hours of sleep meme of the past couple days, and so I trundled off to bed, confident that whatever the remainder of the contest might hold, it would be of far less interest to me than the extra hours of rest I was going to oh-so-generously bestow upon myself.
Cut to this morning, where I fire up the computer only to see that anything that could be deemed the least bit entertaining happened directly after I ceased to be conscious. Murphy: Your Law. Your Law: Murphy.
From what I can tell, the good things were as follows:
The Cubs won. Next.
Jim Edmonds broke out of his mini-slump and gave the team some cushion with his sixth-inning dinger. Plus, when Soriano returns the Cubs will likely be deploying the lineup I still have no doubt they envisioned from the moment they acquired Edmonds - Soriano, Fukudome, Lee, Ramirez, Edmonds, Soto, DeRosa, Theriot. The only difference between what I wrote and what the Cubs are doing/have done, is that they prudently waited until Jimmy proved he could still get it done before putting the configuration in play. Sometimes, I have to admit, I don't give the team enough credit, and this looks to be a fine example of that trait.
Geovany Soto is showing signs of breaking out again. He went through a tough adjustment period in May and part of June, but he's been hitting .311/.378/.486 since June 10th, and .391/.462/.652 over his last 23 ABs, so it's reasonable to hope that he's entering a stretch of sustained productivity. I tell you what, once everyone's back, this Cub lineup is going to be sick.
Kerry Wood gave up a triple with two out to put the tying run on third, but turned around and whiffed Fred Lewis looking on a flat-out nasty strike-three breaking ball. Mistakes will always be made, men will get on, sometimes for extra bases, but what Wood has shown in the last month or so is a seemingly newfound ability to compartmentalize game events and immediately get back to the business at hand. While that's a useful skill as a starter, it's not critical to success, because even if you get mad enough on the mound to lose your focus and give up a couple runs, you've got more innings at hand to cool down and get the job done. Do that at game's end, and more often than not you're finishing on the wrong side of the ledger. Early in the year, this looked to be an issue for Wood, as three bad outings seemed to have been directly related to his inability to refocus after hitting the leadoff man, but those days are gone. Now, if you want the game back from Woody, you're going to have to take it, and with the way he's been throwing, you'll need a freakin' army. And some nukes. And some alien bugs.
The bad things - well, there's really only the one. Carlos Marmol, who has been such a lock all year is going through a - what shall we call it? Let's be diplomatic and say "rough spell." There's been no word on causality, other than the reports of mechanically oriented side sessions, and there may actually be none. The broadcast team was mentioning something in the early innings about the possibility of going to the All-Star Game getting into his head, but that seems patently ridiculous on the surface. Much more likely is that, with his super-heavy usage thus far, he's going through a period where he's tired, and consciously or unconsciously doing something with his mechanics to keep his velocity up, accidentally sacrificing control along the way.
Whatever it is, while I'm reflexively loathe to give an overabundance of credit to relievers, Marmol was a huge part of this team being able to take the division down the stretch last year, and has been a sizable contributor to this year's success. Take him out of the equation and the Cubs are still a good team, but they're clearly not as good, and without the starters managing to pitch an extra inning per game across the board, the trickle down effect in the bullpen could be problematic.
While I wholeheartedly endorse the concept of Carlos Marmol on the All-Start Team, if he doesn't get selected, I might just dance a little jig, because if there's a guy on the club who needs a rest, and needs it like nobody's business, it's Marmol.
So, the split is ensured, and all that's left is the slim hope of squeaking something out against the ridiculously filthy Tim Lincecum for a series win. Aramis should be back, so while I won't say anything can happen, who knows? Maybe something will. It did while I was asleep.