Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCast: July 4th vs. Brewers, for FREEDOM

GameCastBraden Looper (6-4, 4.90 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (5-4, 4.57 ERA)
Story-lines
On the day we celebrate our freedom -- and our right to accuse the other political party of doing anything within their power to stifle it -- the Cubs play a game with immense implications*.  If they win, then they come within mere percentage points of surpassing the Brewers for second place in the division.  If they lose, then they very well may find themselves behind the Reds and back in fourth place by the end of the day.  For Saturday baseball, it doesn't get much better.

(*which, admittedly, require the use of a calculator to fully understand)

Pitching for the Cubs today is Rich Harden, also known as Last Year's Rick Sutcliffe.  But like Sutcliffe in '84, Harden's '85 season hasn't panned out as well as we'd hope it would've.  Still, like Sutcliffe before him Harden is a ginger** with arm problems who can pitch like Cy Young when he's not feeling like Mark Prior. 

(**may not be true)

The Cubs, meanwhile, are trying this revolutionary new strategy of NOT BATTING THE WORST HITTER LEADOFF.  I'm sorry, Cub fans, but in the past month I've heard the following reasons for keeping Alfonso Soriano in the #1 position:

  • Because wouldn't it be worse for him to get his outs with runners on base?
  • Because who else would the Cubs bat leadoff if not Soriano?
  • But he's a headcase!  How's he going to improve if he's not comfortable!

I mean, really?  We're justifying batting a guy who is now hitting .226 leadoff -- in other words, giving him the most at bats of any Cub in any given game -- because the team has nobody better who can hit leadoff and besides, Sori will just make outs with runners on if he's dropped in the order?

Not that today's lineup looks spectacular by any means.  Fukudome is batting leadoff, and he's 8 for his last 32 - a .250 AVG - with a .314 OBP in that time frame.  Maybe Lou is setting Fukudome up to fail so he can say "well, I tried, but I gotta put Sori back in the leadoff spot."

On the bright side, unlike past lineups, Lou is not sticking two-or-more hitters back-to-back in the middle of the lineup.  Instead he's leaving them in the middle but with padding in between.  I mean, I have to ask, which lineup would YOU rather see?

CF Fukudome
SS Theriot
1B Lee
RF Bradley
3B Fox
LF Soriano
C Soto
2B Fontenot

Or
SS Theriot (.400 OBP in the past week)
RF Bradley (.407 OBP in the past week)
1B Lee
C Soto (.936 OPS, .545 slugging in the past week)
CF Fukudome (.222 in the past week, but .833 OPS)
3B Fox
2B Fontenot (.750 OPS in the past week)
LF Soriano

I could be wrong, but the second lineup appears stronger.

Who's Hot
Well, I sorta outlined that in the lineup formation.  Ryan Theriot -- on fire.  Geovany Soto -- not bad.  Even Milton's been playing too well to justify a benching.

Who's Not
The Fonz.  This season has been a total bust for him.

Conclusions
If the Cubs win this one, then they will have started to assume control of their own destiny.  But if they fail to do that, then at least we wouldn't be surprised.  (We're a fickle, cynical bunch)

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