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Revisiting Revising History
by Derek Smart
A game like last night's can really wreck havoc with a fella like me trying to write as I go. I makes things like this happen:
After Reed Johnson'sAramis Ramirez' Felix Pie's game-winning hit, I was happy to see Ryan DempsterKevin Hart Kevin Hart get the win.
Still, I can't really complain in the face of victory, even when it sends my blood pressure to lofty climes. So, enough with what could have been, and on to what was. With a bullet!
For various reasons which I shall be kind and spare you details of, last night was the first game I've been able to sit down and watch from start to finish all season. In fact, I've only seen highlights of most games, since I've been primarily forced to follow on MLB's Gameday - both regular and mobile. Here's my question: was Fukudome's spinning, whiligig of a swing against Zach Duke in the forth the single, worst cut he's had all year? I'm thinking it had to be, what with him looking like a seven-year old who got into Mommy's "pep pills", but then, as I said, I've not been privy to them all.
Of course, there were several other swings in the game that were bad in the same way, without necessarily bringing the same level of cartoonish hilarity, and I find myself wondering if he is, perhaps, bailing out a bit against lefties when they come inside? He does, after all, practically have his toe on the black as he waits for the ball, and is essentially beginning his run to first as he swings - which given where he stands would be necessary for him to do on pretty much any ball inside if he wants to get around on it. I'll be curious to see if this was simply a weird night, or if he does, in fact, have a more exaggerated move toward first when he swings at southpaws.
I can't say I expected the level of pitching we've seen thus far from Ryan Dempster. I doubt anyone has, including Dempster himself. Not only did he have very good control - which he'll need for continued success - but the Pirates just never looked comfortable up there, and never seemed to have any idea what the pitch was as it approached the plate.
What I wonder here, is, how much Dempster's mitt flapping is distracting hitters? I know he's basically doing it to help disguise the nature of the pitch by keeping his grip secret (apparently, his glove was flaring as he prepared to throw his splitter, etc), but the way the Bucs looked at the dish I have to wonder if it was making it hard for them to pick the ball up out of his hand - not because it was physically obscuring it, but because of the hitter's eye being naturally drawn toward the unusual motion.
We won't have any way of knowing unless an opponent makes a specific statement, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that were the case, and if the second time around teams are able to adjust.
Game One went into extra innings because of defense, and so did Game Two. But for all the various Cub errors in the opener, the contest gets easily settled in the requisite nine, yet last night it was both the same and totally different, since this time around it was the Cubs very good defense - specifically the fine play made on a pop bunt by Derrek Lee - that pushed the contest beyond standard bounds.
Of course, assigning causality to Lee's play is a bit revisionist, since we're making assumptions about the remainder of the inning for Carlos Marmol and the game in general beyond that, but I think it's safe to say that, with the way Marmol was throwing, both runners on base at the time of the bunt would have eventually come around to score, and possibly more than that. He was that off. So, kudos to The Savior, on a night when he couldn't get his bat going, at least he brought his glove.
I was, actually, very pleased to see Felix Pie come through in the fifteenth. There's nothing fun about having the other team walk a guy to get to you, and when they do it twice with the game on the line, I can imagine you really want to make them pay. It was easy to see from the replay on the broadcast - the way Pie was thumping his hands together (yes, thumping, not clapping) and the look on his face told the whole story - that it meant a ton to him to get the job done in that situation. Hopefully, that can act as a catalyst for him to perform a little better, because as useful as Reed Johnson's been so far, Pie's the long term solution in center if he can only give Lou a reason to play him.
After Game 8, the Cubs are now two games over .500, a distance from even they did not achieve last year until Game 84 on July 5th. Games 5-8 are their first four-game winning streak of the year, with a streak of similar size not coming until Games 25-28 last year. This doesn't mean much of anything beyond the psychological lift one gets from starting off relatively well - it's a matter of timing and luck, in many ways - but we've seen this team have enough issues out of the gate in years past, that it just feels nice to not be in a hole.
There's a opportunity for the Cubs to get their first series sweep of the season tonight, and extend their overall winning streak to five games. Human Punching Bag, Matt Morris, gets the nod for the Bucs, so as long as whomever of Marquis or Hill takes the mound tonight can keep the offense in the hunt, I like our boys' chances.