Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCast: July 17th at Washington

GameCastRich Harden (5-6, 5.47 ERA) vs. John Lannan (6-6, 3.70)
Story-Lines
The Cubs kick off the second half in grand style against the worst team in baseball.  So far this month the Cubs are 7-5 and they remain floating at .500 on the season.  This comes after they squandered a chance to surge past the Cardinals right before the break, splitting a four-game set.

I have a feeling that the next two weeks will be very telling for the Cubs.  If they lose ground, Hendry may need to bite the bullet and start dumping salary -- even though it would be a tremendous struggle for him to do so.  It's not that there won't be buyers, but few teams carry around the pocket change necessary to afford the most expensive and disposable Cubs.

What's more likely to happen is continuing, meandering play of the team.  Maybe they'll gain a game, maybe they'll continue to float, but they are unlikely to surge or acquire.  It's most likely that the lost season we were afraid of back when the sale was announced before 2007 is finally upon us, with the Cubs unable to cut through the ties that bind them.

Still, the talent is there, the players who have basically tanked this year are not necessarily done producing, and stranger things have happened. 

Who's Hot
Rich Harden - Well, not as a pitcher, but he's been hitting the ball surprisingly well this year.  He's 3 for his lat 3 and is batting well over .300 on the season.

Ryan Theriot - He's not drawing enough walks to warrant batting leadoff, but before the break Theriot was hitting the ball like it was Tina and he was Ike.  For July, Theriot is 19 for 48 -- a .396 AVG.

Derrek Lee - He's been a little hit and miss but so far this month Lee has 6 homeruns, 18 RBI, and an OPS of 1.034.  He's also only batting .262 with an OBP below .300. 

Milton Bradley - It's sad that a .250 AVG constitutes as "hot," but we'll take it!  More impressive than his 7 hits in 28 at bats is his 13 walks.  I don't think Bradley should bat leadoff, but I'd try him in the #2 spot for a while.

Mike Fontenot - So long as he doesn't face lefties (in other words, he should sit the first two games of this series), Fontenot is a half-decent second baseman.  And in July he's 9 for 29, although it's mostly singles, which I'm hoping will bode well for the rest of the month.

Who's Not
Fukudome - 9 for his last 40, Kosuke has proven Rob right ... apparently. 

Micah Hoffpauir - Hey kids!  This guy should be starting over Derrek Lee, who will lead the league in double plays this year!  Actually, no, that's wrong.  But while Hoffpauir has been a trustworthy bench guy/pinch hitter, he's 3 for his last 16 (.188 AVG).

Conclusions
The Nationals are really, really bad.  Seriously bad.  Painfully bad.  It would be hard to feel disappointment with the Cubs if they win the series, but they really should sweep.  And even though Harden has been shaky-at-best, I have to believe he puts the Cubs in position to win.

Which doesn't mean I'm expecting victory. 

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