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I Like This Feeling Better
by Derek Smart
The Cubs have gone from tight and formidable to sloppy and foolish then back to tight and formidable again, all in the course of three days. We might have even more of this yo-yo ball coming our way as some young guns finally get some much deserved work, so just be prepared to take the good with the bad. In the meantime, enjoy these fine, hand made bullet points in celebration of last night's victory.
He may not have gotten any deeper into the game than he has in his last few starts, but it was sure nice to see Mark Prior get through six innings in under 100 pitches. Despite his good control, efficiency has been a big problem for Prior throughout his young career, and the truth is, even calling last night's outing efficient is a stretch.
I firmly believe that for The Franchise to reach his potential he has to find a way to consistently get through at least seven innings without having to max out his arm. If this means pitching to contact more and losing the occasional strikeout, so be it, but having to throw 120 pitches to finish the sixth isn't going to cut it long term. And in other news of the obvious, war is hell, night is dark, and puppies are awfully, awfully cute.
While he looks a long way from running like he used to, Nomar appears to be rounding into shape with the bat, and watching this recovery has been bittersweet to say the least.
I always liked him when he was with the Red Sox, and the feeling has grown since he's been with the Cubs, so I very much want to see him succeed. Yet I know in my heart that any progress he makes will be fleeting, and that his attempts to make a case for his return are futile. I just can't see the club re-signing him, much as the organization might appreciate all the hard work he's put into coming back this year, because the risk is simply too high.
The Cubs can't afford the possibility of being hung out to dry again, and so while I wish him well and wish he could be a part of this team if they were to eventually reach the promised land, it's clear to me that it was simply not meant to be. And that makes me sad.
I've said so before, but I love Matt Murton's approach at the plate. He just does a hell of a job getting himself into good counts, and even when he doesn't, he's got such a quick, clean stroke that he needn't fear hitting with two strikes.
However, the goal for him over the next month has to be making more solid contact, because while it's nice that he has the speed to get infield knocks, corner outfielders are paid to hit the ball with authority (Cub left-fielders in 2005 apparently haven't been subject to this condition), and unless he starts showing that side of his game, he'll do his chances of making the big club next spring some serious damage.
My new favorite for "Most Surreal Moment of the Year," is the snippet of seventh inning conversation that occurred in the Cubs' television broadcast booth as Len Kasper and Bob Brenly began by talking to Ron Cey about his nickname, "The Penguin," and then veered into a discussion of the film, "March of the Penguins".
The thing is, it wasn't so much the fact that they talked about the movie that was strange, it was the enthusiasm that Cey himself brought to the deal. If you're not just a little bit amused by Ron Cey talking about what a hardship it would be to have to walk seventy miles across Antarctica after sitting on an egg and starving for four months, you don't have a sense of humor.
While he never left his feet, when Derrek Lee leaned backwards into the stands to snag Jeff Kent's foul pop-up, I couldn't help but think of a pop idol being carried across an arena on the hands of his audience. I don't think stage dives are a recommended activity at Wrigley (drunken trixies make a poor support system), but if anyone's been enough of a rock star to pull it off this year, Lee's the man.
The Cubs pulled off a suicide squeeze, and perhaps the greatest miracle was that I didn't faint immediately afterward.
Congratulations to Scott McClain for getting his first hit in the Majors since 1998 in last night's game, which also happened to be his first career extra base hit. Add on Monday night's ground out RBI - his first career run batted in - and you have to believe it's been a fun couple of days for the journeyman. He's the kind of guy you can't help but root for, and if he managed to use this opportunity to play himself into a bench spot next year, I'd be the first to give him a cheer.
It's the rubber game this afternoon, and hopefully Glendon Rusch can get things turned around. A series win wouldn't heal this year's wounds, but it could act as a welcome dose of morphine as we lie on the season's death bed.