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On the Homefront 2008 - Week 6
by Derek Smart
The week began in a disappointing way that was quickly becoming the norm. Nothing like a little home cookin' to fix what ails ya.
Game 32 Opponent: Cincinnati Result: Loss Score: 5-3 Big Play: Adam Dunn's moon shot in the third that, even if it didn't put the game out of reach, certainly made the task exponentially more difficult. Oh, and the seventeen errors were big, too. Big Player: Johnny Cueto wasn't flawless, but he was very solid, and was the best guy on the field that day. Unless you're talking about Ryan Dempster, who'd likely be the guy here if anyone could have caught the ball behind him. We'll talk about this game next year because: It was this team's worst defensive game of the season.
Game 33 Opponent: Cincinnati Result: Win Score: 3-0 Big Play: Ronny Cedeno's fourth inning, two-out, two-RBI single that gave the Cubs some necessary breathing room. Big Player: Carlos Zambrano shut out the Reds for 8 innings, giving up only three hits and three walks in the process. He's not striking out as many, but he's still getting his share, and since he's not giving out free passes like they were...um...free, the need to erase guys without contact isn't as acute. This start lowered his ERA to 1.80, and if you take out his start in Philadelphia - the only one of his 8 starts where he's given up more than 2 runs - it drops to 1.10. I do believe this is the guy we've been waiting for. We'll talk about this game next year because: It's another spectacular data point in the best season to date of Zambrano's career.
Game 34 Opponent: Cincinnati Result: Loss Score: 9-0 Big Play: Sending Jon Lieber to the bump. We all had such high hopes, but the only thing higher were the pitches he threw that sailed over the fence. Big Player - Pitching Edition: Edinson Volquez, who is owning the joint in spectacular fashion in 2008. Big Player - Hitting Edition: Joey Votto, who clubbed three dingers on the day. We'll talk about this game next year because: Any pitcher's outing that makes you long for Jason Marquis deserves a few minutes of couch time.
Game 35 Opponent: Arizona Result: Win Score: 3-1 Big Play: Ted Lilly's two-out RBI single to tie the game in the fifth off one of the best pitchers in the league. The D-Backs rightly walked Reed Johnson to get to Lilly, but he made them pay, and paved the way for Soriano's tie-breaking double that followed. Big Player: Ted Lilly struck out ten men, and after giving up a first inning bomb to Chris Young, shut down the team that embarrassed him in last year's playoffs. Good Ted has returned, and it looks like he'll be staying for a while. We'll talk about this game next year because: It broke the pattern of the previous four series, and served as a huge confidence boost for a team seemingly on the ropes, particularly coming against the team that had the best record in the Majors at the time, and had so thoroughly owned the Cubs last October.
Game 36 Opponent: Arizona Result: Win Score: 7-2 Big Play: Alfonso Soriano's seventh inning RBI double that gave the Cubs their margin of victory. Big Player: Soriano went 4-5 with two runs scored and an RBI, serving notice that the slump that was his year-to-date is now a thing of the past. We'll talk about this game next year because: It will, hopefully, be the day that Soriano began one of his patented hot streaks.
Game 37 Opponent: Arizona Result: Win Score: 6-4 Big Play: Daryle Ward's go-ahead double in the bottom of the eighth to give the Cubs the lead for good. Big Player: I'm going with Daryle again. Sure, he was only in there for 30 seconds, but seems to me when you get the game winning hit, that's all you really need. We'll talk about this game next year because: The Cubs swept the team that's likely to be their playoff nemesis, should we all be so fortunate to be there in the first place.
The Week That Was
It wasn't a great start to the week, but it sure was a hell of a finish, sweeping a team in the Diamondbacks who not only throttled them last October, but has had the Cubs' number since 2004 - Arizona was 17-8 in the regular season versus Chicago from 2004-2007. Beating up on them and making it stick, all while recapturing a share of the division lead is a big deal, even this early in the year.