GameCast: August 5th at Cincinnati
Rich Harden (7-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Justin Lehr (0-0, 5.40 ERA)
In the shadow of a surging Cardinals team, the Cubs are poised to sweep another team on the road -- this time being the Reds, in what is surely Dusty Baker's swan song as a major league manager.
Pitching for the Cubs is Rich Harden, who's had a less-than-fantastic walk year although he's stayed healthier than anybody could've imagined. On the mound for the Reds is Justin Lehr, a journeyman who is back to the majors for the first time since 2006, when he had an 8.62 ERA with the Brewers. Tonight will mark only his second career start.
Re-joining the Cubs today is legendary slugging second baseman Aaron Miles, best known for his epic clutch skills. The Cubs have cut down to 12 pitchers to make way for him, with more tough roster decisions to be made this weekend when Geovany Soto returns to the team.
The incredibly awesome Mike Fontenot - Fontenot is indesputibly the most universally loved Cub, thanks in part to his David vs. Goliath demeanor, coupled with his keen defensive skills and wavy, flowing hair. As usual, Fontenot's production has been tied into the Cubs' success -- their recent winning ways can certainly be attributed first and foremost to his .306 AVG in the past week of play. On top of that, his first-at-bat double last night was huge for the team. The once and future team MVP has an OPS of 1.056 over the past 7 days and will surely continue to put up huge numbers in the coming games.
Jake Fox - Okay, this one is subjective. He's only 4 for his last 17, but 3 of those 4 hits have been homeruns. So far this year ESPN has him on pace for 256 at bats, for which he is projected to compile 19 doubles, 19 homeruns, and 63 RBI. Granted, he hasn't had as much to do with the team's success as Fontenot, but he has certainly earned the right to remain on the team for the remainder of the season.
Derrek Lee - He's 9 for his last 30 (.300 AVG) with 5 extra base hits in that span. Not to mention the fact that, in 270 fewer at bats, Lee has already surpassed last year's homerun total while grounding into only 5 double plays.
The Cubs bullpen - For a while there they were efficient and reliable. Now they're back to their old, gut-wrenching tricks. Since July 31st, the bullpen has surrendered 15 runs in 15.2 innings of work, which doesn't even count the runs tacked onto the starters' tabs. Indeed, I don't feel particularly confident about any of those guys replacing Gregg.
The bullpen needs to shape up; Harden needs to consistently get outs, and the Cubs offense needs to pick up the slack so that Fontenot is no longer carrying them on his admittedly broad shoulders.
Oh, and I hope Cub fans brought their sweepin' brooms to Cincinnati. I've got a feeling they may get to use them tonight.