Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
There were multiple firsts yesterday, so why not take a tour?
The Team's First Win:
And the Northside exhaled. What was most interesting to me between Wednesday's and yesterday's games was the number of posts on these here internets telling me not to panic, which it seems to me is something one says both to reassure those currently in a tizzy, and to save oneself from a similar fate. Say it enough, and it will be true. Of course, it is true - no one's going to hyperventilate when the team drops two in a row in July, so what sense does it make to do it now? - but the fact that it had to be said is telling in itself.
Ryan Dempster's First Win:
I wish I could say I was confident this was the first of many, but even so, it was a very nice outing. Any time Dempster can walk half a guy per inning or less, I think you're likely to see a pretty solid performance, and he only walked two in six yesterday. He's got good stuff - that's never been the question - it's just a matter of whether he can put the ball where he wants to consistently enough to be effective.
Yesterday he did, and the result was six very good innings with only 91 pitches thrown. Once he's more stretched out, he should be able to easily go seven on a day like that, and I'll take seven strong from my starter any day.
Fukudome's First Error:
For those of you who didn't see this at some point, head over here for a moment and click on the video clip down the page labeled "Brewers Score Twice". I'll wait.
That, my friends, is a tough error. I don't know that it could have been scored anything else given the outcome - the extra run has to be accounted for, and you can't exactly call it an 'O (Obliteration) - 2' - but I'd wager that most of the time that throw would be relatively unremarkable, and that in fact, the comment would be that it was impressive for its strength, but was just a bit too far up the line to be truly effective.
All it would take to alter the result would be a runner with slightly less/more speed, or for Soto to be planted in a different spot. Change any of that and you're looking at a run in with a man on third, rather than clear bases and a pair of tallies. As it was, Geo was right there in the basepath, trying to make it a little harder for Weeks to score, and he got his team an extra run in the hole, and himself a couple bruises for his trouble. I don't honestly think there was a mistake here. Just an unfortunate conflation of events and accounting needs.
First Stolen Bases:
Not the first for the team as a whole, as that honor belongs to Mike Fontenot on Wednesday, but four other players - Soriano, Theriot, Fukudome, and Pie - swiped their first bags of the season yesterday. I don't honestly remember a Cub team that had this kind of speed throughout the lineup - imagine what this would look like if a Roberts deal eventually came to pass - and while I'm not a guy who generally gets all worked up about the usefulness of that sort of potential, at least as far as larceny goes - sure, a couple of the steals increased the immediate likelihood of scoring, but not one of yesterday's moments of thievery lead directly to a run - there is something undeniably fun about a team that has this many players capable of taking an extra base at any given moment. Of course, three of those four would do better to concentrate on actually reaching a base in the first place, but that's picking nits, isn't it?
Both Soriano and Ramirez got their first hits, and both drove in runs with them, although the knocks themselves couldn't have been more different. Soriano still looks a bit lost up there, and his hit didn't do anything to dissuade that notion, being a little dink that happened to drop in no man's land. Maybe it will help him relax a bit to clear the 0-fer, but nothing about the hit itself would lead one to conclude that more were on the way.
Ramirez, on the other hand, absolutely launched one, and on a pitch that, truth be told, wasn't half bad. Of course, when I say the pitch wasn't bad, that's an evaluation in a vacuum. Put it in context - a ball low and tailing in, just staying on the plate, to a man in Ramirez who probably asks for pitches like that when he wants to put holes in neighboring buildings during BP - and it starts to look more like a mistake.
Soriano's First Walk:
It only took three games, and came in a situation where I would have fully expected some anxiousness to lead to a less than inspiring outcome. However, there he was, after the two hitters before him had blown their opportunities to do something good with the bases loaded (and yes, I know one of them was Dempster, but that doesn't change the level of pressure), and he comes through with a four-pitch RBI walk. I certainly won't expect that sort of thing from Soriano going forward, but I suppose the surprise is part of what makes it fun (Note to Alfonso: if you'd like to take some of the fun out of this by showing more patience, I wouldn't object).
Wood's First Save:
First this year, first of his career, and great to see after his rough outing in the opener. One of the things people question when someone is new to the closer role is whether or not they can handle the pressure in game, and rebound from the failures that are sure to come. Seems to me that with the combination of Monday's implosion, the pressure to bring home the season's first win, and the difficulty survived at the end - coming back from a 3-0 count to strike out Jason Kendal with the tying run at the plate - that the question of Wood's Closer-centric-intestinal-fortitude has been, if not fully addressed, at least been made considerably less urgent.