GameCast: June 29th vs. Astros
Mike Hampton (6-7, 4.74 ERA) Randy Wells (6-4, 3.10 ERA)
After the brutal beating the Cubs received last night, I'm sure there are plenty of fans out there wondering if the recent 5-game winning streak was only a mirage. (Rob: Nah, it was just a bad Dempster night) Perhaps the Cubs aren't very good, as we thought previously? Maybe they can't stay competitive with the Cardinals, who appear hellbent on winning the division?
Meanwhile, hot on their heels are the Astros -- the team they're trying to beat this weekend. Houston has probably surprised nobody more than themselves with their continued competitiveness -- they're only 2.5 games out.
Pitching for them today is Can't-Believe-He's-Still-Active Mike Hampton, who'll take on rookie mehsation Randy Wells -- who's only a "meh"sation because of how quietly he's achieved his success. I'll tell you this -- if Wells continues to win his games an indeed ends the season with an ERA in the low 3's, then he will deserve strong Rookie of the Year consideration. But I'm pretty sure that he's not even on anybody's radar for that just yet. But go ahead and take a gander at the NL -- this league is not exactly sick with competition this season, at least not among the rookies. Wells may just have a shot.
Aramis Ramirez - 15 for 44 since the break, batting .341 with 4 homers and 11 RBI. I swear to gawd, Cub fans are such dopes sometimes. Of course his immediate return from the DL looked ugly -- a player can't miss months of a season and then reappear as hot as he was when he left. And his recent outburst of offensive hotness doesn't mean he won't slump again sometime either ... but Ramirez is playing as if he's not down a gear, to the shock of doomcriers everywhere.
Derrek Lee - Ramirez isn't alone. D.Lee is 15 for 42 since the break, batting .357 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. Remember, folks, Lee was supposed to be washed up this season. He was, at the age of 33, over the hill. His 27 double plays last year was proof that he was somehow losing his ability, despite his otherwise good offensive numbers. So far in 2009 Lee has hit into 23 fewer double plays than he did last season, while already matching '08's total output for homeruns. Good thing the Cubs didn't give him up for Hoffpauir.
Alfonso Soriano - The Fonz is 17 for his last 44, making him a .386 hitter with 4 homers and 12 RBI during that timeframe. Not bad for another guy who is supposedly washed-up. While the Fonz is bound to finish the year with numbers below his career averages, he has dispelled concerns that he can't get hot and, best yet, he's one good month away from pushing the ugly first half of the '09 campaign out of our memories.
Kosuke Fukudome - Fooky is 15 for his last 38, a .395 AVG. Rob is right in that Kosuke is not the player we were all hoping for, but he remains a defensive marvel in the outfield and he actually appears to be a competent leadoff hitter. Not to mention -- for what it's worth -- the fact that across the board he's performing better in 2009. His AVG is presently 12 points higher, his OBP is 20 points higher, his OPS is 80 points higher, he's already hit more triples, he's 4 doubles shy of last year's total, and he's within 3 homeruns from matching his rookie output. So what, he's not Ichiro or even Matsui, he's still a helluvalot better than Corey Patterson was.
Ryan Theriot - Before his recent 0 for 9 spell, his numbers weren't so bad. He'd hit safely in 8 straight games, and in 16 of his last 17. Still, he's mostly been collecting singles, having only hit 1 double and 1 triple since the NL was crushed at the All Star Break. Theriot is 12 for 49, batting .245, and needing a big day sometime soon.
Three Finger Hill - Rob, you miss Geo Soto yet? (YES!!) Hill is batting 7 for his last 42 (.167). Maybe Lou should entertain letting Fox catch a few more games, as Three Finger is just a little too Bakoesque for my tastes. (Hill wishes he could hit like Bako)
Mike Fontenot - Let's just bury the Fontenot-as-starter experiment once and for all. Fontenot is batting 7 for his last 33, a .212 clip. At this point, I'm not only hoping that Jim Hendry is, in his possible death rattle, shaking off one last magical trade for a new and improved second baseman -- preferrably, a trade that includes Fontenot himself, as I'm tired of his lack of production. (Dirty Sanchez, anyone?)
The Cubs should enjoy feasting off Mke Hampton while Randy Wells needs to strongly consider walking Carlos Lee intentionally and often. I may have sung Randy's praises earlier in this article, but the truth is that he's been an average starter at-best this month, posting a 4.06 ERA despite his 4-1 record.
Regardless, the last time Randy faced Houston he threw 6 scoreless innings en route to the second of those seven consecutive winless starts. So far this year he's beaten the second time out both teams that he's faced twice, the Braves and Reds. Here's rooting for three.