Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
Good Evening, Dr. Jekyll. Care To Stay Through October?
by Derek Smart
Like a SuperBall thrown in a cobblestone room, nobody knows what direction the Cubs will go in next, but one thing I do know - I sure like that last rock they bounced off. Let's hope the next rebound doesn't pelt us all in the head.
Another nice outing for Jerome Williams, made only a little less nice by the long home run off the bat of the last man he faced, Rich Aurilia. Previous to that three-run seventh, he'd only coughed up one run on four hits and a walk, and I'll take that combination no matter who's on the hill.
If there's a dubious honor to be had from last night's performance, though, it's that Williams was the starting pitcher during only the second of six games this season the Cubs have held the Reds under six runs - the other being Mark Prior's second start of the year, a 7-1 victory on April 19th. Guess who's starting tonight.
It looks like the new pre-game throwing routine for Glendon Rusch is helping. After giving up runs in each of his first five appearances after being moved to the bullpen, Rusch has held down the fort in his last two games, giving up only one hit in the process while striking out two over 2.1 innings.
Last night was particularly good, as he got three of the four men he faced to hit into ground outs, and weakly at that. Glendon finally looks sharp again after struggling, not just in his relief appearances, but in the three starts he had previous to the acquisition of Jerome Williams.
Rusch is one of those fellas who has a relatively small margin for error, relying in great part on his ability to spot his fastball low and on the outer black. Kudos to him for realizing that something needed to change in order for him to be successful in relief, and here's to hoping he can keep it up, as the Cubs badly need the Good Glendon around to help construct the bridge between the starters and Ryan Dempster.
Remember how the Cubs walked seventeen times during their three games in Florida? That's gone by the wayside, as we all knew it would, and the team has only taken 11 free passes in the five games since the All-Star break. So, what's been fueling this recent scoring surge?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you that harshest of offensive mistresses: batting average. The Cubs are hitting .362 since the break, and slugging an impressive .622 - and that includes the shutout at the hands of Zach Duke. That said, the club hasn't been facing the finer pitchers of the National League lately, but then they weren't exactly up against it during much of their losing streak, either.
In other words, don't expect this type of pummeling to carry over to the Cardinals series when the occasional Major League hurler will take the bump, but still, take heart in the fact that, at least during the first few games after the break, the Cubs are smoking the gents who are ripe to be lit.
You're likely already aware of this, but indulge me as I point out this ridiculously fun milestone that's about to occur: Derrek Lee is two home runs away from his career high of 32. In the middle of July.
Let me put this to you another way: assuming that Lee achieves this feat by the end of the week, he will have matched his career high in home runs - a high he set while playing in 161 of his team's games - in a mere 97 contests. No, wait - if he does it this week he'll have matched his career high by his team's 97th game - he's missed four.
One last twist to the data: if The Saviour manages to hit two homers in the next five games, he will have matched his career high in dingers with a little more than 40% of the season left.
That, my friends, is taking it to the next level.
It's The Franchise against Luke Hudson tonight, a spectacular mismatch on paper, and exactly the kind of game that makes me nervous. Oh, who am I kidding, they all make me nervous. Such is the life of a dangerously obsessed Cub fan.