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Just Smile, Smile, Smile
by Derek Smart
These are heady days here in Cub Town. Winning eight out of nine and five in a row can make a fella giddy, especially when the last few games have been taken in such convincing fashion. It's important to remember, though, that these moments are fleeting. Later this season, when the Cubs have lost four of five and look listless, purposeless, helpless, take the lessons of the last week and recall again, that these moments are fleeting, that like the bliss before it, this horror too, shall pass. Then smile, and enjoy some baseball.
I love watching the little adjustments guys make, whether it's over weeks or milliseconds, and as useful as Gameday is, those tweaks obviously don't shine through even the best non-video internet applications. So, with that knowledge in hand, it should come as no surprise that when I scanned through my recorded version of the game, I spent an inordinate amount of time viewing and reviewing the footage of Reed Johnson's RBI single in the fourth.
It was a classic case of a batter reading fastball out of the pitcher's hand, but finding to his horror as the pill approached that it was a sweeping breaking ball. Now, I admire majestic home runs as much as the next guy, but there's something wondrous to behold about a man who only has part of a second to decide to hit a baseball, who is able in the middle of that commitment to completely alter the nature of it, which is exactly what Johnson did.
So there he was yesterday, out on his front foot, starting to swing at a heater, yet in that partial second still noting the ball's rotation, and seeing he'd been fooled, reprojecting the ball's flight in his mind's eye, following the newer more accurate trajectory, and finally adjusting his swing to get his bat on it. His hips had fully rotated, but as you'll hear all the time on broadcasts, he kept his hands back, which allowed him to, upon recognizing the reality of the situation, make that little change and get him some contact.
I suppose there's a life lesson there, too. Just because you start out fooled, doesn't mean you have to finish that way.
With my brain still swirling from the various allergens the local foliage spewed into the air this weekend (I am now convinced, by the way, that tree pollen is composed of tiny bits of Nerf material, that then get lodged in one's sinuses to form the football you tossed around Thanksgiving morning - only now you're forced to breathe through it), I forgot to mention in yesterday's post how fun it was to watch the reaction of the guys on the bench as Pie returned to the dugout after his homer.
Clearly, Felix was beside himself with excitement, but it was a real kick to see everyone else enjoying it nearly as much, showing great affection for a kid they all seem to like, and who they know is working his tail off under difficult circumstances to make himself a viable Major League hitter. I suppose it's just nice to see teammates rooting for each other as people.
Ronny Cedeno - the most dangerous man in the Majors with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the eighth. Pitch to him at your peril!
The funny thing is, after hitting a double and a grand slam and driving in five runs on the day, Ronny still left seven guys on base, which, frankly, is a good thing. Not because he left them there, but because they were there at all.
Offense is all about creating opportunities, which is all about getting guys on base. Right now, the Cubs are doing that in spades, and as long as they keep it up, they'll convert enough of those chances to win. A lot.
I didn't review the entire game, but in what I saw, Lilly did not look sharp. It wasn't the velocity (still a bit down) or the control (still a bit off), instead it was this feeling that the physical motions he was going through were harder than they should be. I have nothing beyond my own eyes to base that on, and I'm open to the idea that I've been compromised by all the talk about what's been missing from his work thus far, but even so, he seemed to me to be laboring more than I recall. Until I see something that contradicts that impression, I'm going to remain concerned.
It's off to Colorado this evening to face the re-reeling Rockies in another of these odd little ha'series. I don't like facing teams who've just come off a bad performance. Makes me think they're hungry for redemption. Makes me think they're due. If they are, here's hoping they start collecting sometime Friday.