Series Recap: Cubs 2, Cardinals 1; NL Central Champ/Exhaustion Edition
It has been a long, long, loooooong weekend for me. As you know by now, I spent it by driving to the States, where I planned on enjoying a weekend in the company of friends, 15 year old scotch, Cuban cigars, and the warm company of a brainless day on a couch with a good book.
I saw my friends, but pretty much everything else went out the window. I have a cousin who's staying at my Mom's, along with her teenage daughter and twin toddlers (just toss the adjective "terror" in front of their names and you'll have the right idea) and two mornings of being awoken at 7:30AM kind of put a dent in my fun. In other words, I'm writing this through the haze of exhaustion, don't mind the run-on sentences.
While I was gone, a few cool things happened in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays - or, as I like to refer to them, the Cubs' future World Series opponents - clinched their first playoff berth ever. The Brewers continued perhaps the greatest Wild Card collapse in baseball history. Oh, and the Cubs clinched the division.
Let's take a look at this clinically:
Friday, September 19th: Cardinals 12, Cubs 6
Carlos Zambrano is riding a roller coaster. After climbing to a ridiculous height in his previous start, he dive-bombed to ground level by being routed by the Cardinals. Jon Miller speculates that Carlos was just doing us the favor of letting the Cubs clinch on the field the following day, but I'm not so sure. Basically, the Moose has me feeling an awful lot of concern, and after this outing, he is no longer my Game One starter. More on that later.
What was interesting of this game, however, was how the backup Cubs fared once Lou yanked all of his starters. Kosuke Fukudome had an RBI single, Daryle Ward smacked 2 doubles, and the Cubs managed to score 6 runs in total after the game was long over. It seems like some guys are trying to convince the Cubs that they are playoff roster worthy. More on that later, too.
Saturday, September 20th: Cubs 5, Cardinals 4
They decided to scare us first, but the Cubs clinched on Saturday although Ted Lilly had a rough 6th inning. For a while there, I was convinced that Lilly would make my prediction of a sub-4.00 ERA season come true, and then he got smacked around by Troy Glaus. No matter, Lilly still won his 16th of the year, Kerry Wood achieved his 32nd save of the season, and the Cubs got to have their victory lap around Wrigley Field.
Sunday, September 21st: Cubs 5, Cardinals 1
Okay, let me get this out of the way first: the 2008 Cubs aren't going to win 100 games. At this point, it shouldn't even be an objective. Right now, this team's only goal should be to get playoff ready, if they aren't already. However, you better believe that a part of me is happy to know that the team is still capable of achieving a 100 win season, and all they have to do is go 6-1 against two teams still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. No troubles at all, there.
Kosuke Fukudome is doing what he needs to do in order to prove that maybe, just maybe, he should get a start or two in October, while Felix Pie and Casey McGehee are working hard to convince Lou and Jim to bend baseball's rules and get them onto the playoff roster. But more impressive was Ryan Dempster, who went 5 innings on 67 pitches and won his 17th game of the season. In his recap, Jason called Clownsevelt the team's ace. Maybe that's stretching it a little far, but at this point I'd argue that it's a no-brainer that Dempster should be starting either Game 1 or Game 2 of the NLDS. No offense to Carlos, but the Cubs are a weirdly fragile team. If they win Game 1, I believe it's their series to lose. If they lose Game 1, I'd worry about a sweep. The Cubs are a team with a 100-year monkey on their back; momentum is everything for them.
On the Post Season Roster:
I attempted to stir discussion in my absence about the post season roster, to total failure. I'll try again now:
The Cubs are a well-rounded team, but they've got a few question areas. First and foremost, if Fukudome is not the team's starting right fielder, then 3 of their 4 middle infielders will be starting games (Fontenot, Theriot, and DeRosa will be on the field, Cedeno will be the, erm, defensive replacement). That means that the Cubs would have to shuffle their players should Aramis Ramirez need to leave a game. The Cubs will need to fill a few key positions between now and the start of the post season, and from now until the 28th are the open auditions.
And, with that, my blog post has sort of petered out. I blame the booze that I started drinking 20 minutes ago. Anyway, let's enjoy the win, let's enjoy the team, and I will leave you with this final thought:
They do not need to reach, or even win the World Series for this to be a fulfilling season. I will not be devastated if they fail. However, should the Cubs be poised to achieve the unbelievable, only to lose due to some fluke play, this season will be as lost to me as '03 has become. Let's hope that that isn't the case. Let's hope for the best. Let's hope for these Cubs.
Smitty, if you're reading this, what do you feel about them now?