Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCast: July 30th vs. Astros

GameCastStory-lines
In one corner we have the Astros, the hottest team in the NL Central this month, battling to stay above .500.  In the other corner we have the Cubs, the sleeping giant of the Central, who are -- we hope -- on a meteoric rise to the top of the division and then to playoff glory.  And if anybody thinks it'll be that easy, then maybe the Cubs aren't the only ones who've been sleeping through this season.

Don't get me wrong.  It's been great to finally experience a month of good baseball.  It's been fantastic to finally see the Cubs alone in first place above even the pesky Cardinals and their dastardly attempts to acquire good players to compete.  It'll surprise few of us if the Cubs get back there again soon.  Hell, maybe they'll even stay there for a while -- like, the rest of the season -- but underperforming teams don't just suddenly wake up, shove away the clouds of mediocrity, and rain fire on their opponents.  There are bound to be roadbumps.  There are sure to be more tough losses, and agonizing injuries, and instances of total, unending doubt.

But, c'mon.  Aside from the Fontenot-Baker Connection, these guys are actually pretty good

Today's Good Guy is Kevin Hart, who I'd feel a lot better about if only he hasn't walked something like twice as many guys as he's struck out.  Maybe it's a Maddux thing -- early in his career, the greatest pitcher of our era was afraid to throw inside with a full count -- and Hart is just skittish about his stuff, or maybe he's just wild.  But the sooner he gets it under control -- pun intended -- the better the Cubs will be, especially since they are going to miss Lilly for the better part of a month and Hart's the go-to replacement guy.

Who's Hot
Pretty much the entire Cubs offense - Hey, so far they've scored 28 runs this series.  Isn't that a little more like it?  The only guy to go hitless yesterday was Kosuke Fukudome, who is unfortunately going to be called upon to face lefties a lot more often now that Reed Johnson (affectionately known as Vag Face to the HJE crowd) has broken his foot. 

(Seriously, what is it with Cub injuries this year?  It really does appear to be like 2004 all over again, we should write a comparisson article about it sometime.  Hey Goat Riders, any volunteers?)

Then again, Fukudome, probably should be able to hit lefties, he is getting paid a lot of money for it.  But just to be on the safe side, maybe Jim Hendry should add "right-handed backup center fielder" to his non-existent Trade Deadline Needs list.

Who's Not
Aaron Heilman - I tend not to put pitchers on this list, mostly because I'm lazy.  But Heilman is definitely in the Cub fan doghouse right now, at least with me.  I'm still wondering what he would've been like as a starter - he sure did look good this Spring - but as a reliever, he's a turd to be used only in blow-outs.

Conclusions
Despite the questionable nature of Hart's ability to pitch in the big leagues, I still like the team's chances today.  The Cubs appear to be a team on the rise.  Then again, before this series so did the Astros, and they won't drop out of competition if they lose today.

But as we've pointed out a few times on this site, the Cubs upcoming schedule isn't easy.  A win today, while not falling in the must category, would be advantageous. 

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