Carlos Zambrano threw first ball strikes to 16 of the 28 hitters he faced, while consistently keeping it down in the zone and mixing his pitch selection, leading the Cubs to their second consecutive shutout, throwing what was for him, an efficient eight innings of three-hit ball.
It was exactly the kind of outing Cub fans, and even Big Z himself, have been waiting for, and if it isn't used as a roadmap for success in future turns, there aught to be hell to pay.
In the third inning Doug Davis made a mistake - he threw to Derrek Lee like he was human. After falling behind 2-1 to Lee with pitches outside, Davis tried to keep him honest by coming inside, and he got to be a souvenir donor for his troubles.
At some point this season pitchers are going to stop coming inside to Lee altogether. They've already stopped pounding him there the way they were early in the year, as those pitches wound up deposited in the stands. What used to be a glaring weakness for The Savior has become a major strength, and while the league has adjusted to a point, they haven't done so in the drastic way Lee's dominance dictates.
Of course, after a period of never seeing a ball on the inner half, Lee will start sending the ball out of the park to right - he's always had good opposite field power - but it's in the best interests of National League pitchers to make that extreme adjustment soon, even if it only buys them a couple weeks of mortal play.
Speaking of Doug Davis, if you ever wanted some circumstantial evidence that the Cubs have trouble with "crafty" pitchers, look no further. His career high for strikeouts is nine, and after doing it again last night, he's accomplished the feat four times in his career - three of them against the Cubs.
I want Corey Patterson to hit, I really do. But if he continues to make plays in the field like he did in the eighth inning last night, he'll buy himself a hall pass from me, at least for a while.
His defense and concentration on the field and basepaths have seemed to suffer during his offensive struggles (conjecture on my part, of course, but that's what it looks like to me), so it was important that he get his head in at least part of his game. If you can't get it done with the stick, do it with the glove, and while that won't be good enough forever, it'll be good enough for now.
I've made my fears of bunting with men on first and second clear, so as you can imagine, it was fun to see another team succumb to the dangers of the play. Trent Durrington came up for the Crew trying to sacrifice the runners over to second and third, and after fouling off his first two attempts, was forced to push the ball further into the field of play than he would have ordinarily cared to.
The result was a ball that seemed to be laid down specifically for the purpose of giving Derrek Lee an easy shot at the lead runner at third. Lee made the play easily, and illustrated why I get jittery when it's my guys trying the ploy. Again, it was the right play to attempt, but it's a tough one to get right, and thankfully for the Cubs, the Brewers couldn't.
Kerry Wood returns today against Ben Sheets. I'm excited in a way that I can only describe as unreasonable. It may not be clear at times in this space, but I'm an unabashed fan of Wood, and as much as he disappoints me at times, I can't help but love him. Despite being flexible as a titanium bar, I'll have every available appendage crossed this afternoon. All I have to lose is the feeling in my extremities.