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by Phil Bencomo
Poor relief work lost the Brewers another game, but Ryan Dempster came very close -- 90 feet, actually -- to replacing "Brewers" with "Cubs" in the first clause of this sentence. Does he enjoy knowing that, during outings like this, fans are on the verge of falling to the ground unconscious, their faces a purplish-blue, as they hold their collective breath waiting for him to just close out the game already?
No, you say? Well, it sure seems like it sometimes.
But I shouldn't be too hard on the man. Before last night, he had made ten consecutive scoreless appearances, lowering his ERA to a shade over three. He's now 16th among NL relievers in WPA, a few places below Carlos Marmol, he of two more scoreless innings last night. Only four NL teams can boast two or more relievers in the WPA top 16: Los Angeles, Arizona, St. Louis and, of course, Chicago. It's no surprise, then, that all four are in the playoff hunt.
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Presented without comment because, really, it speaks for itself: The Cubs are now the only NL Central team over .500.
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After his first few at-bats last night, Alfonso Soriano had me worried. (As a general rule, batters are NOT supposed to swing at balls that bounce in front of the plate.) But in his final two plate appearances, he looked far more competent. He had no rehab assignment, so I'm inclined to believe that, after a few games, the rust has been removed.
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Houston, which will begin a series with the Cubs in less than an hour, may be 14 games under, but the Astros did just take two of three from St. Louis. Luckily, the Cubs will not have to face Roy Oswalt.