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The Road To .500 Goes Through Washington
by Phil Bencomo
Not to disturb the delicate balance of Fate and Fortune or anything, but I can't help but be excited about this club, especially with three games against Washington on deck, because:
The Cubs went 4-1 on their road trip and are a mere two games below .500; the Nationals are 9-18 on the year. The Cubs need to take two of three; that at least puts the Cubs one game under going into another series with Pittsburgh.
The team has allowed the fewest runs in the division and scored the second-most. Run differential says the Cubs should be 16-10.
Carlos Zambrano, with three runs allowed in his last 12.1 innings, pitches Friday; Rich Hill, who has been consistently good all season, throws Saturday. That's good for two wins, right? Sunday gets a little iffy, though. Angel Guzman was expected to pitch, but another rough outing at Triple-A has the Cubs rethinking that decision. Normally, I wouldn't argue, but when I saw this paragraph:
That could open the door for another Iowa starter, such as so-so performers Carlos Marmol and Les Walrond, or even Wade Miller, who was dropped from the fifth-starter role when he pitched poorly in three April starts, then went on the disabled list with back spasms. The Cubs wouldn't need a fifth starter until May 12, and Miller would be eligible to come off the DL by then.
Well, suddenly Guzman doesn't sound so bad.
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Jason Marquis continues to defy nearly all logic: His eight inning performance today lowered his ERA to 2.09. This comes despite fewer strikeouts and more walks per nine than last season. The key, though, has been his newfound ability to keep the ball on the ground: More than 50% of balls in play have been on the ground. The last time Marquis accomplished that over an entire season, he threw more than 200 innings and had an ERA just over four...
If Marquis can keep the ball on the ground and in the park (2 HR allowed in 38.2 innings), he will continue to be a valuable pitcher. One caveat, though: With so few Ks and so many balls in play, Marquis' success is inherently tied to the Cubs' defense. (Marquis' DER is significantly above league average at .780, but his FIP is a respectable 4.01.)
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Alfonso Soriano is finally heating up, with a home run in each of the last two games. Better yet, he's showing opposite field power...
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UPDATE: It seems I can't read a schedule. Fixes have been made.