Houston's got to be pissed. There they were, on a ridiculous hot streak, beating teams left and right, and suddenly a hurricane named Ike and a commissioner named Bud brought their party to a screeching halt.
2 games and 18 innings later, the Astros achieved a whopping solitary hit while the Cubs took advantage of how the neutral series ground was actually Wrigley North.
In today's annihilation, Ted Lilly threw 7 innings on 85 pitches. He allowed 1 hit - only 1! - walked 1 Astro, and struck out 9. And while Lilly was mowing them down, the Cubs offense delivered on some big hits. Jim Edmonds hit his 18th homerun of the year, Derrek Lee smacked number 19, and Geovany Soto hit his 22nd. But the best part about it - all but 1 of the homeruns hit today had runners on.
It is true that Lou Piniella tried to make things interesting late in the game. He called on Samardzija, who only recorded 1 out while walking 2. More dastardly, Lou turned to Bob Howry in the 9th. I remarked at the time to Jon Miller that Lou was trying to turn it into a save situation for Kerry Wood.
Series Recap: Perhaps the best, single word to describe this series is "surreal." The Cubs played a road series against Houston in Milwaukee, where they proceeded to obliterate the formerly hottest team in baseball while turning around an abysmal downward spiral that had led more than one Cub fan into jumping off the ledge.
More importantly, after going 1-8 during a stretch that began on August 30th and ended on September 9th, the Cubs have gone 5-2 from a stretch beginning on Sept 6 to tonight. The Cubs are also riding another winning streak, this one at 4 games, and they find themselves in the position of landing the death blow against the flailing Brewers, who could be eliminated as soon as Thursday.
It's a cool situation, really. Here we were, panicking about how the Cubs would have a rough road this month, including 6 against the "surgin' Brewers," and now we are looking at it from the other end. The Cubs are in position to keep the Brewers out of the playoffs all together.
Current Record: 90-58
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 8 games in front of Milwaukee and 10.5 ahead of Houston
Best Possible Record: 104-58
Worst Possible Record: 90-72
On Pace For: 98-64
Magic Number: 6, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com
I would kill my internet connection out of spite, but it's better to be crippled-but-online rather than dead-and-disconnected. It seems that MLB.TV doesn't want to play properly for me right now, which means that I have become increasingly reliant on the sports ticker. But that's ok - it's going to be a struggle for me to watch these games for awhile anyway. They're all too close.
Although the offense continues to slump, the Cubs won again tonight, their second in a row. Tonight's win came from RBIs generated by a bases loaded walk, a ground out, and more traditionally, a double. As a team, the Cubs combined for 7 hits and 5 walks, and they failed to capitalize on either 9 or 19 opportunities, depending on how you want to look at things.
Not that the continued offensive druthers mattered too much. Rich Harden triumphantly returned to the rotation, pitching 6 innings, giving up only 5 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs. Both of the runs scored against Harden came in the 6th, thanks in part (and unsurprisingly) to Albert Pujols, who drove in one with a double. The Cubs ace was relieved by Lou's best three, all of whom promptly scared the crap out of Cub fans everywhere. I mean, c'mon guys, how long do we have to go before you relearn the meaning of a 1-2-3 inning? Samardija gave up a hit, leaving a Cardinal stranded at second. Marmol loaded the bases, although it was partly due to the continued sudden influx of stupidity on the part of Lou Piniella.
Look, I love Lou. The Cubs wouldn't be a first place team without him. But, when there was a man on 2nd and a man on 3rd with 2 outs, why in the hell did Lou make Marmol intentionally walk Adam Freaking Kennedy to load the bases? I mean, Adam Kennedy! The guy sucks! He's batting .267 with a homerun in 300 at bats. Josh Phelps, meanwhile, who pinched-hit for Jason LaRue, is batting .278 in admittedly limited at bats this year. But, still. When the Cubs intentionally walked Adam Kennedy, I hear he almost fainted from the shock of it. Besides that, with a 1-run lead and a pitcher with a few bouts with total and absolute wildness this year, I'm not sure how I'd feel about intentionally putting him in a situation in which he couldn't afford to miss his spots.
But, hey, it worked. Marmol got out of the 8th and Lou Piniella turned to the Shooter, Kerry Wood. Wood delivered on the opportunity for his 30th save this season by allowing a leadoff double and, after forcing an out at third, a single to Schumaker.
Then, with 2 men on, Wood struck out Aaron Miles and faced Albert Pujols, who popped out to center to end the game. But, I ask you this, my friends. Did you feel comfortable with Wood facing Pujols in that situation? With 2 outs and a base empty, wouldn't it have made sense to walk Pujols in order to face Ludwick? Do you ever give the other team's best hitter a chance to burn you in the 9th inning?
I think Lou is suffering from fatigue. I think his decisions as of late are mostly bad. I suppose I could be wrong, though.
Series Recap: It's their first series victory by the Cubs since August. Despite their slumps and slides since then, the Cubs are now 5.5 games in front of the second place Brewers. Milwaukee, that's got to hurt.
They next face the Houston Astros, depending on whether or not Hurricane Ike lets it happen. The first 2 games of the series have already been postponed, with the possibility that Sunday's game will be a double header and the 3rd game will be made up, in theory, at the end of the season.
I still think they should have just moved 'em to Wrigley, not that I ever expected that to actually happen.
All told, the Cubs are now 3-6 in September. Not exactly world breaking, but they've got time to go back to crushing the globe.
Current Record: 88-58
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 5.5 games in front of Milwaukee and 8.5 ahead of Houston
Best Possible Record: 104-58
Worst Possible Record: 88-74
On Pace For: 98-64
Magic Number: 11, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com
First, before anything else, let me thank the New York Mets, who swept the Brewers. Because of the Mets, the Cubs maintain a 4.5 game lead on the second place team in the division.
Second, I will again point out that a slump had to be expected.
Those two things out of the way, I am in full-blown, sick to my stomach panic mode. It's not that I'm not expecting the Cubs to reach the playoffs, because I am positive they will. It's not even that I think the Brewers will creep in and take the division, because I would be shocked if they do. The pressing concern for me is the stark realization that any team can swing from unrelenting momentum directly into a gut-wrenching slide. If the Cubs can lose 5 straight games, and if in 4 of those 5 losses they combine to score 5 runs in total, then my question becomes this: what's stopping them from doing that in October?
At this point, the only way the Cubs will address my concerns is by winning the crap out of their remaining games. Yep, that's right. "Winning the crap out of their remaining games." For those of you who speak and understand English rather than Kurtytalk, "winning the crap" means "playing dominantly." With 22 games remaining, the Cubs will need to win close to that epic number of 15 in order for me to feel less concerned. They will need to step up and dominate the Cardinals and Brewers, and they will also need to extract revenge from the Astros in Houston.
Will they be able to do that? I think we'll know within the next week or so. We may know as soon as the end of their upcoming series with the Reds. But if the Cubs fail to pull out of this dive they're in, playoffs or not, it will become an October of Diminished Expectations.
Oh, and because this is supposed to be a Game Recap: Cubs lost 4-0. The offense got shut down again. Dempster didn't do badly, but something has gone horribly wrong with the hitting. My thoughts on this, if not evidently clear already ... fix it soon, guys. Fix it soon.
For those of us who were calling this four-game series a playoff preview, I'm sure there must have been a pervasive sense of disappointment when the Cubs failed to take 3 of 4. Blame Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry, who apparently decided that nothing exciting had happened for a while, causing them to reach into their bags and roll the Cause Random Stress Dice, landing on Carlos Zambrano: Arm Exhaustion.
Consequently, Sean Marshall made an emergency start today. The Phillies blasted him for 3 in the first inning, and although the Cubs were able to amass 11 hits and 2 walks, they just never seemed in the game. By the way, let's take a moment to give props to Jamie Moyer, who won his 12th game of the season today. The 45-year-old lefty now has 241 wins in his career. Oh, and did you know he started with the Cubs in the same season as a future righty Hall of Famer 42-year-old? I wonder what the statistical odds are of two pitchers starting off together on the same team in the same year and then still pitching 23 years later while combining to win 594 games? I'm not stupid enough to say that it would have made all the difference in the world, but I can't help but wonder what things would have been like if Moyer and Maddux had won all those games as Cubs.
The Cubs finish the month of August with 20 wins, and they now enter September needing 15 to reach 100. Maybe it'll happen, maybe not, it really doesn't matter no matter how often we or others talk about it. Milwaukee beat up on Pittsbugh some more today, and they are now 4.5 games out of first place. A friend of mine told me weeks ago that he'd be far less nervous about the team if they entered September with a 7 game lead.
Well, they couldn't do it, but let's not forget the lead they have on the current Wild Card team right now.
More content will come in this post later, like when I wake up tomorrow. I'm exhausted.
If Jason Marquis is a blind squirrel, then shutting out the Pirates is a nut he found. I guess it was bound to happen. Marquis went 7 strong innings, throwing 95 pitches, striking out 3 while walking 0 and surrendering 5 hits. However, in a turn of pure irony, while Marquis battened down the hatches and held the Pirates scoreless, the Cubs offense floundered and managed to only score 2, one from unlikely hero Ronny Cedeno, and the other from a sacrifice bunt by Henry Blanco.
The Cubs offense actually accounted for 7 hits - including doubles by Soriano, Theriot, and DeRosa - and 2 walks, but for the most part they just couldn't finish what they started. Fortunately, it turns out that the Cubs don't always need to score 12 or more runs in a game to win.
For me, perhaps the funniest part of the game is how, in 2 innings pitched, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol combined to strike out more Pirates than Marquis managed in 7. Not that Lou had it planned that way, but maybe it actually works out to the team's benefit to replace a soft throwing righty with two flame-throwers who derive pleasure from throwing pitches with ungodly break to them. Regardless, the Cubs won again, and when they eventually lay claim to the NL Central Championship, while their thank you speech should have 10 minutes dedicated to the Pirates, let the detractors remember that the Brewers played Pittsburgh just as often.
Series Recap: Another road series sweep. Just two months ago, the Cubs were a team with a glaring weakness - they could not regularly win on the road. However, after having gone 13-1 in their last 14 road games, the Cubs now have one of the best road records in baseball to help compliment their overall standing as - wait for it - The Best Team in The Game. Chicago is now 34-31 away from home. Similarly, the Phillies share that road record, the Brewers are 36-31, the Angels top all of baseball with 40 wins and 25 losses, and the Cardinals are actually 37-29. Maybe it's no coincidence that the Cubs have turned things around after releasing Scott Eyre, who was apparently depleting his teammates of energy by eating his - and their - share at all the pre-game buffets.
Before this month started, I predicted that they should win 17. They have; in fact, the Cubs have now won 18 this month. I also said that they could win 20 if all the cards fell the right way. At this point, 20 wins seems very likely. Some people are going to look to this upcoming 4-game set against the Phillies as a Series With Implications. I'm not so severe in my way of thinking, but it certainly would be nice if the Cubs could step on the Phillies's throats for 4 games and make it clear to them that they won't have what it takes come October.
Current Record: 83-50
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 5.5 games in front of Milwaukee and 10 ahead of St. Louis
Best Possible Record: 112-50
Worst Possible Record: 83-79
On Pace For: 101-61
Magic Number: 25, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com
When he realized that neither Jason nor I had themotivation to write up a Series Preview, our resident realist Rob revealed his belief that the Cubs should sweep the Nationals. And they would have, too, if not for those punk kids and that talking dog, too! No, actually, it was mostly the fault of Jason Marquis. Had he not lost the ability to throw strikes, the Nationals probably would have failed to climb back and win the first game of the series.
Thankfully, Rich Harden is no Jason Marquis. Harden gave another stellar performance today, throwing 7 innings of 2-hit ball and matching his career high of 11 strikeouts. Harden has been a pleasure to watch as he just appears unflappable and unhittable - in fact, he's strongly reminding me of Mark Prior circa 2003 with one exception - Lou Piniella isn't pitching Harden's shoulder or elbow into oblivion. His 109 pitches today are the second most he's thrown for the Cubs all year long. (He threw 112 pitches against the D-Backs over a month ago.) Contrast that with 2003 Mark Prior, who in 30 starts that year, threw under 109 pitches only 10 times. Yeah, screw you too, Dusty Baker.
Harden is now 4-1 as a Cub with a 1.47 ERA. The Cubs are an 80 win team and with 32 games remaning, there is still a good chance that they might finish the year 20-12 (that's a winning percentage of .625) and become the first 100-win Cubs team in more than 70 years. Me, I'd still rather see them win a World Series.
Oh, and one other thing about Harden. At this point, if Rich and the Cubs faced Sabathia and the Brewers in the playoffs, even if I wasn't a Cubs fan, I think I'd have to bet on Harden. He's amazing.
Offensively, Mark DeRosa continues to rip the ball. He's hit 4 homeruns in as many days, and with the aforementioned 32 games remaining, DeRo has already achieved career highs in homeruns, RBI, walks, and runs scored.
Additionally, the still-struggling Kosuke Fukudome hit a pinch hit homerun - his 9th of the year - and I have hopes that he'll soon pull it together and give the Cubs a solid month of the kind of offense we came to love back in April.
Series Recap: Okay, sure, maybe the Cubs should have swept. However, if the Cubs average 2 wins per every 3 games from here on out, I, nor you, nor anybody will be complaining.
For me, I'm just pleased knowing that the Cubs are now 5 wins away from matching last year's total - a feat they will likely accomplish before August ends. Before the month began, I speculated that they should and perhaps would need to win at least 17 to maintain a healthy lead on the Brewers. With 7 games remaining, they have won 15, and I'd argue that they are in position to win 20.
Granted, the Brewers have hung tough and they've kept up. In fact, I'm astonished by how well they've played. However, they won't keep up. The Cubs are just a superior team and, sooner or later, they'll discover that C.C. Sabathia has been writing checks that his arm cannot cash. In the meantime ...
Current Record: 80-50
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 5 games in front of Milwaukee (who, at this posting, are tied 3-3 with Pittsburgh in extra innings) and 8 ahead of St. Louis
Best Possible Record: 112-50
Worst Possible Record: 80-82
On Pace For: 100-62
Magic Number: 28, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com
It's been written that, on days when he's not pitching, Carlos Zambrano shags fly balls in the outfield and throw them back in left handed. It turns out that the Big Moose is ambidextrous and, in the right circumstance, he'd love the opportunity to play the outfield on days he's not pitching. He'd just catch the ball with his right hand and throw it back in lefty.
He just might have the necessary stick for the job. In 482 career at bats, Zambrano is batting .241. That's not great unless you're a pitcher, but it could perhaps be successfully argued that players who don't bat regularly struggle more than players who bat daily. What's more impressive is his 16 career homeruns. Zambrano may just be capable of improving on that .241 career average, had he the chance to bat 500 times in a season. However, if it's true that limited plate time negatively effects a player's batting statistics, it would be hard for the Big Moose to do much better than he's done this year. Essentially, there have been 24 games this year in which the pitcher has been the most productive hitter on the team - the games Zambrano has started. Rather than give you the cold numbers, I'll give you the projections:
In 550 at bats, Carlos would have 196 hits, 31 doubles, 8 triples, 24 homeruns, 94 RBI, and he'd be batting .357 with a .928 OPS. Maybe the ol' Zambino photoshop was even more appropriate than it first appeared:
Perhaps the one factor detracting from Carlos's quest to be a hitter is his lack of patience. In all those career at bats, Z has a whopping 5 walks. That's Dunston/Patterson territory. However, it's conceivable that he's currently taking the "make 'em count" approach and is more aggressive than he'd be if he was hitting every day.
He certainly made 'em count today. Carlos was 1 for 2 with a homerun against the Reds, while also pitching 7 innings and giving up only 1 earned run off of 6 hits and 4 walks. His homer was the last run the Cubs scored, and it was also the difference in a 3-2 ballgame.
It remains concerning that Carlos has bouts with wildness, although my personal belief is that he was merely trying to get the Reds hitters in trouble with Dusty Baker. Rumor has it that the Reds have a "bench 'em if they walk twice in a game" policy, and for tomorrow's game, Chris Dickerson would've at the very least been flipped in the lineup with Corey Patterson, had C-Pat not drawn a walk in the 7th.
Offensively, the Cubs managed 6 hits and 2 walks of their own off of Josh Fogg and company. Fogg only went 4 innings and threw 60 pitches. I'm convinced that either Dusty got confused and thought it was the 8th when he pulled him, or he's planning on starting him again on Sunday. Apart from Zambrano's homer, the other two Cubs runs came from a DeRosa solo shot and - go figure - a Derrek Lee double play that also scored Alfonso Soriano.
One other thing worth mentioning is that Kerry Wood struck out 2 to get the save, and Carlos Marmol gave up his first earned run in over a month and his first hit since the end of July.
Series Recap: Taking 2 of 3 from the lowly Reds somehow feels like a disappointment. The Cubs should sweep these chumps, right? However, they are now 78-49, they've gone 13-5 this month, and tomorrow they host a team that's even worse than Cincinnati before traveling to the armpit of Pennsylvania to pummel on another crappy squad.
In other words, I'm not complaining, not by a long shot.
Current Record: 78-49
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 5.5 games in front of Milwaukee and 8 ahead of St. Louis
Best Possible Record: 113-49
Worst Possible Record: 78-84
On Pace For: 99-63
Magic Number: 30, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com
I didn't really get to blog about yesterday's game, which means that you were saved from having to read my frustration about the 8 hits and 7 walks that the Cubs failed to capitalize upon. Not that you would have gotten a lot of bile from me, as it would have been half-hearted at best. It's really very hard to be angry at this Cubs team, short of them running over my pet cats - and even then, I'd be more annoyed than anything.
Today's game provided plenty of reasons to feel joy. The Cubs, down 2-0 in the 7th, uncorked the bats* and in Anti-'03 Fashion, blew the lid off of Dolphins Stadium for 8 runs. The coolest thing was that they did it without homeruns - Soriano doubled in 2, Ramirez doubled in 2 more, Fukudome - who seems to be bouncing back and forth between his white bat and a black one - sac flied a run in (plus he made a stellar defensive grab early in the game), and Reed Johnson capped off the inning with the third double of that frame, this time for 3 more RBI.
(*perhaps a bad pun for a team that once employed Sammy Sosa)
Reed is now batting .314 as a Cub. Like Edmonds, Reed Johnson was a late acquisition by Jim Hendry, plucked from the scrap heap, who has turned into an invaluable member of the Cubs. If on April 1st you told me I would later say "I don't want to think about where the Cubs would be without Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds," I would have thought you were yanking my crank, which sounds particularly dirty. Moving on.
Ryan Dempster pitched 6 strong today. He left after 96 pitches, after having allowed 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 earned runs. Oh, and he struck out 10. Clownsevelt is now 14-6. Never in a million years would I have expected this kind of production from him. We could make an argument that Dempster is the Cubs MVP this year, but the reality of it is that he'd be fighting with a crowd of players for that distinction. From Dempster, to DeRosa, to Soto, to the Fonz, the Cubs have had a number of players step up and do big things.
Oh, by the way, without much fanfare, Carlos Marmol has now gone 10.1 innings in a row without surrendering a hit, and his scoreless streak is up to 15 straight. Maybe he also should be included in the field of potential MVPs, and, retrospectively, he flat-out absolutely belonged at the All Star Game.
I hate the Fish. Perhaps more than any other team in baseball, I hate the Florida Marlins. I don't even hate the White Sox or the Cardinals, but after the 2003 NLCS, there is a vile spot in my stomach that belongs to that ragtag bunch of losers who can't even afford to keep a solitary good player who's eligible for arbitration.
Therefore, you can probably understand how satisfying it feels to see the Cubs travel down to the hole that is Dolphins Stadium and walk all over the Marlins. Sure, 2 games were close, but the Cubs now leave the putrid state of Florida with 2 wins in 3 tries (pretending the Rays never happened), and I feel slightly less nervous about the prospects of the Marlins storming the weak NL East and sneaking into the playoffs.
The Cubs, by the way, are now 76-48. 28 games over .500. They have a 31-31 record on the road. And they are back in Chicago on Tuesday, hosting the lowly, bottom-feeding Reds. They've already got 11 wins this month, with 13 remaining it does not seem out of the question that the Cubs might exit August with 20 wins in total. Best yet, on July 17th, the Cubs were 57-39. Since that time, they've gone 19-9. They are piling on wins, and somewhere, a Brewers fan is weeping, while a Cardinals fan is at this point too numb to feel.
Current Record: 76-48
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 5.5 games in front of Milwaukee and 7.5 ahead of St. Louis
Best Possible Record: 114-48
Worst Possible Record: 76-86
On Pace For: 99-63
Magic Number: 34, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com
In tonight's game, Atlanta's hitters finally remembered how to do their jobs, but not until after the Cubs continued their torrid offensive onslaught.
The Cubs pummeled Tom Glavine, lighting him up for 7 earned runs in 4 innings of work. (Memo to Glavine: mmm, retirement.) Chicago hitters combined for 14 hits, 8 walks, and they scored 11 runs. Every regular contributed, with the biggest nights coming from the Fonz and Aramis, who hit homeruns and combined to drive in 5 runs. Other fun figures - Lee, Soto, DeRosa, and Reed Johnson all hit doubles. Soto was one of only two regulars to only get one hit - but, then again, he drew 3 walks. Aramis was 2 for 2 when he left the game due to a hip contusion that shouldn't keep him out of the lineup at all. Oh, and the Braves cried a lot.
On the pitching front, Lilly gave a mehdiocre performance. He allowed 4 earned in 6 innings, primarily off of 8 hits. But, hey, he also struck out 8 while walking only 2 and, best yet, he won his 12th game of the year. Did anybody in early May think that Ted Lilly would ever be 12-6 at any point this season?
Meanwhile, somewhere right now there's a guy on a bus keeping a seat warm for Howry. He allowed 4 more hits tonight, 3 of which turned into runs, thanks to a 3-run shot by Jeff Francoeur. Damn you, Howry! Ahem. More impressive is that Mark Kotsay, who went 5 for 5, hit for the cycle in a loss. As far as I know, the last time an opponent hit for the cycle in a loss was Willie Magee in 1984 in the game that will always be known as The Sandberg Game. You know what else happened in 1984?
Anyway, the Cubs have now won 8 straight on the road. This is the first time they've won 8 straight since 1945. Do you know what else happened in 1945?
One last thing. I forgot to mention that, yesterday, the Cubs won both double headers by 8 runs, something that hasn't happened since 1908. Do you know what else happened in 1908?
Series Recap: I have man-love for Carlos Marmol. Since July 20th, Marmol has gone 13 innings without allowing a run to score. In that time, he's given up 2 hits, 8 walks, and he's struck out 17.
He's also gone 8.1 innings in a row without surrendering a hit. In that time, he's walked 3, and he's struck out 12.
One month ago, his ERA was 4.13. Today, it's 2.89. In other words, it's dropped 1.24 runs in less than 30 days; in fact, it's taken 19.
For that reason and more, the Cubs have swept the Braves. They are now 4.5 games ahead of the Brewers and 7.5 games up on the Cardinals. They have won 4 straight and 7 of their last 8. In their last 17, they are 14-3. They have pulled within a win of a .500 record on the road. The Brewers have been one of the hottest teams in baseball, and yet they are 4.5 games out.
Team of destiny, anybody?
Current Record: 74-47
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 4.5 games in front of Milwaukee and 7.5 ahead of St. Louis
Best Possible Record: 115-47
Worst Possible Record: 74-88
On Pace For: 99-63
Magic Number: 37, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com
The Cubs entered this weekend's series against St. Louis with the rare and glorious opportunity of nailing the door shut on the Cardinals' season. Although they took 2 of 3, I think it's fair to say that they bobbled it. Sure, they won the first game 3-2 in 11 innings, but the offense just wasn't there in the second game, and worse, the Cardinals took Carlos Zambrano for a ride of gut-wrenching proportions. He allowed 9 earned runs off of 4 homers in just over 4 innings of work. Thugly.
It's hard to be unhappy with the Cubs, though. Jim Edmonds continues to deliver. After going 0 for the world the last time he faced his ex team, Edmonds hit 2 homeruns in the first game of the series, elevating him to 15 on the season. Granted, he didn't get a hit the rest of the way, but the point is, he practically single-handedly won a game against the hated Cardinals.
Tonight's game was perhaps the most fulfilling. We won't go so far to say that the Cubs needed to win tonight, but it certainly was nice that they did. Ryan Dempster went close to 7 innings, allowing 6 hits, walking 3, and striking out 6. He's now won 13 on the season to 5 losses, and at this point Dempster is going to be in for a huge payday once he enters the free agent market - something that's bound to happen.
Kerry Wood also pitched tonight. He's now recovered from his blister, only to suffer another bout of back spasms - he's always had back spasms, it's still better than elbow/shoulder stuff - but, importantly, Wood delivered another strong performance while setting up the still-unhittable Marmol. I have a feeling that Wood will have perhaps only a few more tune-ups before he and Carlos trade places, and Lou goes back to his rigorous regime of trying to turn Marmol's elbow and shoulder into mush.
The Cubs have tomorrow off before embarking on a 6 game road trip, 3 in Atlanta and 3 in Florida. While Chicago continues to have a spotty-at-best road record, they've won their last 5 played outside of Wrigley Field.* I'd expect their solid play to continue against the Braves, and I hope to the sweet lord that they find a way to beat the Marlins in Florida. All that said, the Cubs are the first 70-win team in the National League. More impressive, they have 6 fewer losses than the first place Phillies, and they are 11 in front of the first place D-Backs. I suppose that doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot, but it's still kinda cool.
Current Record: 71-47
Position in the NL Central: 1st place, 4 games in front of Milwaukee and 7 ahead of St. Louis
Best Possible Record: 115-47
Worst Possible Record: 71-91
On Pace For: 97-65
Magic Number: 41, as powered by CubsMagicNumber.com