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by Derek Smart
With last night's convincing 8-3 triumph, the Cubs clinched their first series victory against the Reds since their 2 games to 1 win at Wrigley on April 25-27 of last year. In the span since that series and before this one, the Cubs had gone 5-10 versus Cincy, allowing 98 runs over those fifteen games (that's 6.53 runs per game, for the calculator impaired), and scoring 75 themselves (although it's important to note that 16 of those tallies - 21.3% - came in this season's opening contest). Put another way, if you take the median runs scored for both teams over those games, you get a score of 8-4 in the Reds' favor.
In short, Cincinnati has owned the Cubs of late, so there's something particularly satisfying about both ending the recent losing streak against them, and tallying the club's first consecutive victories against an opponent with a winning record since sweeping the Cardinals from April 7-9 of this year. These have been two solid wins with little to complain about, and in this season well worthy of all the carping one can muster, that's a welcome respite, indeed.
I love my DVR. I didn't start watching the game until around 8:00 when I put my daughter to bed, and while I knew there was a storm raging, I also knew that I'd likely have some game to watch. So there I was, able to fast-forward through commercials, viewing what was accomplished before the rains came, but when I got to the point in the recording where the tarp went on the field, it turned out I only had about 5 minutes to wait before the game resumed. So there I was, after what was essentially a long commercial break, watching it live, all caught up. What a country!
When you watch a lot of baseball, by necessity, you see a lot of bad throws. Sometimes you even see two or three bad throws in a game. However, I don't remember seeing two throws by two different players in the same game sail so high and so far above the intended targets as the errant hurls from the arms of Jacque Jones in the 2nd, and Javier Valentin in the 5th. They were epic in their badness, with Valentin's toss topping Jones' only because his target was nearer, and also resulted in a run scoring.
That Austin Kearns showed Jones how it was done in the half-inning immediately following his gaffe made the pangs all the worse. I don't know if Kearns was ever truly on the block, but watching him hit and throw makes me wonder just what the price to acquire him would have been. Something tells me if I knew, I might be more than a little sick.
Alright, I said earlier there was little to complain about, but I'll take a moment to mention that Ronny Cedeno can make some very nice plays in the field, but it's getting to the point that I'm starting to break into a sweat whenever there's a routine grounder hit in his direction. With his cannon arm and free swinging ways, I'm beginning to wonder if it's time to hearken back to days of yore and break out the Shawon Ron-O-Meter.
One more thing: the Cubs have begun to hit for the occasional extra base, and that's helping their offense tremendously, but in the sixth inning with Cedeno standing on third with no one out, is it too much to ask that Jacque Jones or Henry Blanco make a little contact? I know you can't score every time in that situation, but at least managing to put the ball in play would make me feel better about the whole thing, particularly against a guy like Rick White who's been giving out hits like he's running a pinata party.
To be fair, though, White did a fine job at that point in the game recognizing that a) he had a pretty good curveball going and b) once donning a Cub uniform, players apparently become unable to distinguish between a breaking ball in the dirt and a fastball at the letters. I'd guess they're also completely incapable of any sort of pattern recognition, because it was clear from mid-way through Jones' at bat, that there wasn't going to be a fastball thrown by White until somebody made him. Which nobody did.
Now that I've ragged on Jones a couple of times, let me take a moment to praise him. Twice last night he assaulted pitches from left-handers, once driving in three with a double, and once sending a ball just over the right field fence. I'm not under the illusion that this is something we should expect consistently from Jones - hitting lefties, I mean - but his worth certainly comes from his ability to occasionally hit the ball hard, and last night he delivered on that promise in spades. Clearly, the Cubs cannot expect a high OBP from Jacque, so it's important for him to do more of what he did last night.
Have I mentioned that Todd Walker rocks? True, if he had another few inches on him he might have saved Ronny Cedeno an error or two last night, but he's been fantastic the last few days, and even better since he bruised his collarbone (which I imagine any of you watching last night's broadcast are now acutely aware of). Whether he's raising his trade value, or just closing his time in Chicago with a flourish, it's a pleasure to watch him hit, and I for one, will miss him when he's gone, whenever that happens to be.
A chance to sweep? Really? With Big Z on the mound? That's almost too much to ask, so as a sort of reversal of fortune, it turns out the Reds are sending Eric Milton to the hill, who has been quite good in his last three starts against the Cubs (or, perhaps, the Cubs have been awful against him. You make the call), sporting a 2.75 ERA while only giving up one homer in each game - astoundingly solid work in his world.
It would certainly be a big shot in the arm going into the off day to both beat Milton and bring out the brooms. Let's see if our boys can't do a little spring cleaning before June comes along.