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Don't Call It A Comeback
by Derek Smart
There's something wonderful about baseball's seeming lack of inherent momentum. Had a lousy game last night? Don't worry, there's a guy throwing meatballs on the mound tonight, you'll get your groove back. Of course, it works in reverse, too, and while that's disconcerting when one gets tossed from good to bad, I still think it's part of the game's inherent charm - second, third, and fourth chances abound, and just because it didn't work out today, doesn't mean tomorrow can't be different, and bullies better watch their backs because even Poindexter can pack a punch.
Such was the case last night, when the Cubs bounced back from Monday's tough loss with a tight 7-1 victory over the Reds. It's the type of ballgame I love to watch, where the Cubs move without effort from task to task, doing what needs doing at every turn, each event natural as could be. It can't be like that every night, but goodness, it's fun when it is. Now, some thoughts:
I still won't declare Mark Prior fully back, even after not giving up an earned run over his first 13 innings this season. My overactive sense of irony prevents me.
Overactive sense of irony, you ask? You know, that thing in the back of your head that plays the news of your grizzly death at life's high points, with the anchorman saying, "It was their honeymoon. A time of joy and celebration. But that all changed when a cargo plane carrying equipment for a touring circus accidentally jettisoned the Knife Thrower's trunk of blades onto the empty beach below. Empty, that is, except for a honeymooning couple who shall, tragically, honeymoon no more. Back to you, John."
What? That's only me? I need to start seeing someone.
Still, The Franchise looked like...well...The Franchise last night, especially if you remove that first inning, which I like to call, "The Scoreless Inning That Corey Built." He was spotting all his pitches, got good break on his curves, and most importantly, looked like he was throwing free and easy. Like I said, I won't start breaking out the champagne yet, but I sure like what I'm seeing so far.
How nice was it to see Michael Barrett finally get some return on investment? Even though he'd gone 0-26, he was hitting the ball very hard and getting either robbed or victimized by fielder positioning. Well, after getting on via an infield single of all things, breaking his hitless streak, he decided to cut out the middle man in the sixth and just send that baby over the wall. Fun stuff.
What Barrett has experienced of late is a fine argument for the effect luck has on a season. He'd been drilling the ball everywhere to no effect, balls that you'd call hits if you saw them in batting practice, but the play he finally reaches on is a pitch he makes decidedly lousy contact with. That's classic, folks, and that's baseball.
Remember what I said the other day about Nomar looking ready to break out? Yeah. Scratch that. Last night he looked as lost as he's looked all year, lunging at pitches out of the zone, and generally looking out of sync.
I'm not concerned long term - all players go through bad stretches, and his is all the more visible being at the season's start - but it makes me start thinking about possible explanations, with the only thing making sense being some sort of Freaky Friday incident with Derrek Lee, and when that's your most plausible explanation, maybe it's time to shut up and let nature take its course.
It's those Redbirds tonight, in the first of a short two game set. Tonight's matchup looks slightly favorable with Zambrano against Suppan, but I have fear and dread of the Dempster vs. Carpenter tilt in game two. Still, it's just good to restart the saga of the Bird and the Bear for yet another year. Let's hope our boys can fare a little better against their rivals in 2005.