Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCast: June 2nd - Cubs at Atlanta

GameCastRandy Wells (0-2, 1.80 ERA) vs. Kenshin Kawakami (3-6, 4.73 ERA)

It seems it was only yesterday that the Braves were the bitter nemesis of the Cubs.  Not that there was a long-heated rivalry or anything, but it really burned our asses to watch a Greg Maddux in his prime square off against the Cubs and often own them.  These days that bottom-burning has passed, although this series remains a fairly important one with some implications. 

Story-lines
Two .500ish teams at a cross-roads, vying for control of their own destinies and the chance to seize a playoff spot in the near future.  The only problem is that they are headed in opposite directions (at least in theory).  After slipping, stumbling, and eventually being held down and beaten, the Cubs have managed to rise up and win 4 out of their last 6.  Meanwhile the Braves have lost 5 out of their last 7.  I'm sure Cub fans everywhere are pulling for Atlanta to continue the downward spiral, although the bad news is that they took their beating on the road.  They may be a different -- and harder to defeat -- team at Turner Field.

This marks the 5th start this season for Randy Wells.  Project his numbers to a full 32 starts and we'd be looking at 200 innings pitched, 176 hits surrendered, 56 walks allowed, 184 strikeouts, an ERA of 1.80, and a record of 0-16.  Surely something must change.

Considering how poorly Sean Marshall did his last outing, and how quick things can change on the grand stage of Major League Baseball, then it seems likely -- nay, inevitable -- that a continuously successful Wells may usurp Sean for the 5th starter's spot once Rich Harden returns.  This probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world since the Cubs currently have 0 reliable lefty relievers in the bullpen, but it's still a little premature to assume that it will happen. 

Who's Hot
Reed Johnson - in the past week he's 8 for 15 with 2 homeruns and 6 RBI.  He's gone from a cold backup outfielder to being so hot the Cubs may scramble to find a position for him in the immediate future.

Mike Fontenot - yes, it's true.  Lil' Babe Ruth is batting 6 for his last 18, or .333 with an OPS of .924.  He's not out of the woods yet but it's not too late for Fontenot to have himself a respectable season with the Cubs.

Ryan Theriot - Joining Johnson in the .500 club, Theriot has gone 8 for his last 16 although he's in a homerless spell.  The powerful shortstop has had something like 56 at bats since his last homerun.  Seems to me that he's overdue.

Milton Bradley - 6 for his last 15, Bradley is another guy batting .400 with an impressive 1.060 OPS.  If he's finally gotten comfortable then the Cubs offense is going to really heat up in the month of June.

Jake Fox - I'd be lax if I failed to mention that the newest former Iowan is 3 for his first 7 with a double and an RBI.  It would be refreshing if he actually played at a high level all year long.

Who's Not
Alfonso Soriano - If it's true that the Fonz can single-handedly win baseball games with his bat, then it must also be true that, as a lead-off hitter, he can suck the life right out of a team if he's cold.  Soriano is 5 for 25 with 9 strikeouts in his last 6 games.

Bobby Scales! - Et tu, Bobby?  Scales started out by making up for lost time upon his first call-up to the majors, but he's already showing signs of struggle.  In the past week he's a .182 hitter, even though 1 of his 2 hits was a homer.

Conclusion
Realistically, Wells is not a 1.80 ERA pitcher, but he's also overdue to win.  Kawakami, meanwhile, is mediocre at best.  Considering the Cubs have been playing well and the Braves have been mehdiocre lately, this is an ideal time for Randy to win. 

So, in the venacular of the South ... git 'er done! 

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