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On the Homefront 2008 - Week 7
by Derek Smart
I sure like weeks like this. More, please.
Game 38 Opponent: San Diego Result: Win Score: 12-3 Big Play: Alfonso Soriano's 2-run shot in the Cubs' big fifth inning that gave the team the lead for good. Big Player: Nearly everyone chipped in here, but Soriano put the team over the top, and had both a homer and double in the game, scoring and driving in two. If you've watched any Cubs baseball this week, I think you're about to spot a trend. We'll talk about this game next year because: I'll talk about it because it was my first trip to the park in 2008. You'll talk about it because this was officially Game One of Alf's Big Stick Week.
Game 39 Opponent: San Diego Result: Loss Score: 4-3 Big Play: Khalil Greene's game-tying, three-run homer during Jason Marquis' Designated Implosion Inning. Big Player: I'll go with Greene here, since I didn't see anyone else really step up. Honorary Mention goes to Michael Wuertz, who threw three solid, scoreless innings at the end of the game to save the bullpen and keep the Cubs in striking distance. We'll talk about this game next year because: Despite the Cubs having the most productive offense in the league to this point, they could only score three runs against Shawn Estes. No, there isn't another Shawn Estes. It's that Shawn Estes. Let the shame wash over you and cleanse your soul.
Game 40 Opponent: San Diego Result: Win Score: 8-5 Big Play: Geovany Soto's fifth inning, two-run bomb re-established some distance between the Cubs and Padres after Ted Lilly and a succession of weird plays allowed San Diego to get withing a run during the previous half-inning. Getting that breathing room was a big deal in a game that had suddenly become close. Big Player: Alf or Geo? Geo or Alf? Geo and Alf? Harold and Maude? Hell, I don't know, it was just fun to beat Jake Peavy even if in hindsight he was probably hurt. We'll talk about this game next year because: They scored more off of Peavy than they did off of Estes. I guess that's why they play the games.
Game 41 Opponent: San Diego Result: Win Score: 4-0 Big Play: Ryan Dempster's fifth inning RBI single. It put the Cubs on the board, and gave Mr. Canada all the support he needed. Big Player: Dempster was the best he's been in a Cubs' uniform, throwing 8.1 dominant, shut-out innings, striking out a career-high 12 Padres on the way. We'll talk about this game next year because: We'll likely never see Dempster be this good again.
Game 42 Opponent: Pittsburgh Result: Win Score: 7-4 Big Play: Alfonso Soriano's second inning, three-run homer. It gave the Cubs a six-run lead, and effectively ended the game. Big Player: Soriano hit two bombs in this one, and clearly owned the joint throughout. I can think of few players more fun to watch than Soriano when he's in one of his hot streaks, and this is about as hot as I can remember seeing him. We'll talk about this game next year because: This win made the Cubs 7-0 against the Pirates on the season, and winners of ten in a row dating back to 2007.
Game 43 Opponent: Pittsburgh Result: Loss Score: 7-6 Big Play: Nate McClouth's two-run, go-ahead homer in the top of the ninth off Carlos Marmol. Lucky for the Bucs, Carlos had just given up an infield single, because a one-run lead with the certainty of Soriano coming to the plate in the bottom half would be a thin margin, indeed. Big Player: Alfonso Soriano went 5 for 5 with two homers, a double, and a couple singles. That's a couple bases better than The Cycle, friends, even if it's not as aesthetically pleasing. He so completely dominated this game that, had the bases been loaded when he came up with the Pirates up by more than one, it wouldn't have shocked me to see an intentional walk. We'll talk about this game next year because: Not even Soriano's God act could save the Cubs from a heavy dose of Bad Z.
Game 44 Opponent: Pittsburgh Result: Win Score: 4-3 Big Play: Kosuke Fukudome's steal of third in the bottom of the fourth put him in position to score on Reed Johnson's sacrifice fly that gave the Cubs the lead. On a day where the Cubs couldn't hit Phil Dumatrait, but could take the free pass, being able to get in a position to score on an out was critical. I'll go out on a limb and say Cliff Floyd couldn't have done that. Big Player: Fukudome's steal, and his RBI single that gave the Cubs the extra cushion they needed win him the honors on for this contest. We'll talk about this game next year because: The Cubs wrapped up their first 8-2 homestand in 30 years (of course, not only do you need to play very well to do this, but you have to have a home stand of exactly 10-games, so I understand the red-herring aspect of the thing).
The Week That Was
It was a very nice week where the Cubs got good performances from the offense, defense, and pitching alike. They were able to open up a small lead in the division, and that's extremely important as they head into Houston tonight to face the suddenly very solid Astros and the only human on the planet who can legitimately say he's been hotter than Alfonso Soriano of late - old nemesis, Lance Berkman. The Cubs play 19 of their next 29 on the road, and it's important to set a tone now, after a dominant homestand, that the road is no different than the Friendly Confines.