Game Recap: Cubs 9, Mets 5; Marquis de Grand Slam
Just think of the embarrassment. Think of the shame. Your name is Jon Niese. You're running hard, making your first cup of coffee count. You're thrust into the key position of starting the first of a four game series that very well may determine if your team reaches the playoffs. You are playing a team with a history of getting their asses handed to them the first time they face a left-handed starter.
And then, you give up a granny to their pitcher who isn't Carlos Zambrano. Aw, snap. The humiliation. The Cubs took the Mets for a ride tonight, and Jon Niese was the bus they rode on. Were it not for the Marquis 4th inning smacker, the Cubs would have been offensively meh-diocre tonight. Their first two hitters combined to go 0 for 10, but the bottom of the Cubs lineup delivered. 10 of the team's 14 hits came from hitters 5 and after. Middle infielders Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot had 3-hit games. Derrek Lee smacked his 20th of the season.
Oh, and with 6 likely games remaining, the Cubs have locked in home field advantage, and are 2 wins away from the most they've had since our oldest readers were children. The Cubs won 96 games in 1984, and that was the most since they won 98 in 1945. I think it's fair to suggest that the Cubs could go 4-2 the rest of the way out and finish with 99 wins. Which would be appropriate and perhaps predictable, since they would never play that last, 162nd game. But I digress.
We have to give props to Jason Marquis. Up until the 7th inning, he had the Mets tied up in loops. He won his 11th this season, and while he finished the game having surrendered 4 earned runs on 8 hits and 4 walks, he got 'er done. I think it's fair to say that the Cubs wouldn't have won without him. ::cough::grandslam::cough::
Now, here's the interesting thing. After having taken a ridiculously comfortable lead, Lou Piniella turned to his 3 best relievers - Samardzija, Marmol, and Wood (who got save 33 tonight). This befuddled some of us - GA Hill included - although I maintain that regardless of the situation, Lou needs to keep his Cubs pitchers fresh. He can't let them get rusty just because the Cubs don't technically need to win another game this year.
That said, I'll be disappointed to see any of those three pitchers throw tomorrow. Save them until Wednesday. Then, on Wednesday, regardless of the situation, pitch at least 2 of them. Then, skip them on Thursday. Maybe close a game or two with Samardzija. This is the time to take steps to prepare for all kinds of post season situations, am I right?
Anyway, the Cubs have clinched home field advantage, but more important is this - the distance between them and any other team is wide, and it's getting wider. It's not even close. I know I've said it before, and I'll say it now: these guys are good.