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by Alex Ciepley
Isn't it great when you do a new form of exercise and, as a result, discover muscle groups that had previously gone unnoticed for years? That soreness in my side? Alex, meet your obliques. Or as my friend cattily reminded me when I was complaining to him, "on you those are love handles."
How did I get this ache in my side (and my back, my right arm, both hands)? I headed to the batting cages last Friday with Cliff Corcoran, Alex Belth, and Alex's brother, Skinny-Belth. I'd wanted to get some tips from the guys in anticipation of softball season. It's my first year in a league with a few workmates, and I wanted to stave off a bit of the inevitable embarrassment that will come when I'm at the plate.
Hitting is hard. We were in a 60mph cage (think Jamie Moyer on a slow day), but I maybe dinged two legit hits or so during our hour. Alex B. was much better, banging the ball around from both sides of the plate, all while giving us his best Mattingly, Reggie, and Jeter stylistic impressions. It was fun stuff.
Friday evening's Cubs game was on while we were there, and the WGN broadcast was spilling from the speaker on the wall. It was a pretty big distraction, to say the least. I was hitting when Spivey got the big hit against Leicester, and who could blame me if my swing got a bit more aggressive and wild for the rest of the session?
Hawkins' failure was the big story, but really, it was just one game, and he pitched well yesterday. LaTroy is the Cubs' best reliever by a mile, and the first blown save of the year is being blown out of proportion. He didn't give up five runs, or four runs, he gave up one.
Does Hawkins throw too many strikes? Repeating a pattern we saw all too often at the end of last year, Hawkins is quick to get two strikes on batters, but less quick to put 'em away. Four of the five hitters he threw to Friday night had two strikes on them, and Spivey's single came with the count at 0-1.
Yesterday's game? No complaints here. Zambrano was zeelicious, and the Cubs continued their happy streak against one of the NL's best pitchers, Ben Sheets. The final game of the series begins in about a half hour. Despite the great weather outside, maybe I'll flip on the TV for a while... if I can bear twisting my side to reach the remote on the table.