Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cubs Sweep Brewers in 4

If things continue the way they have this season, it sure would be nice to see that on the front page of the Trib in September. Of course it would be the subheading under the gigantic print that states CUBS HEADED TO SERIES. Yes I'm getting ahead of myself, and yes I am the same guy who wrote of the dreaded lump appearing in Cubfans throats when it looked like the season wasn't headed in the right direction. I still am a Cub fan and have been for awhile which means that I won't let myself get too excited about a World Series until the Cubs are actually in the series.

Last time I got pre-emtively excited about the series, and I swear to all things holy this happened, I looked at my college roommate and close friend Bones and said something along the lines of, "2 innings left, we're up three and Prior's on the mound. It looks like the Cubs are going to the series for the first time since we dropped the bomb on Japan". Of course I was then hit with false sense of security when one out came quickly on a pop fly and the dreaded 5 outs away came. And as you all know that's when the world imploded in Chicago.

But back to my point. The struggling Cubs look to have rebounded exactly when they needed to. Coming into a series against the Brewers, even worse on the road, with 1st place basically up for grabs I was a little worried about what was ahead for the Cubs. Now I know there is still a while to go (53 games) this is exactly what I needed. A 4 game sweep on the road at Wrigley Field North. A Co-worker of mine (who is married to a Cubfan) thought the games the last 2 nights were in Chicago due to the high volume of Cubbie blue in the crowd and the fact that the crowd seemed to be louder for the Cubs. The reason so many Cubfans are in attendance is the short drive between the two parks, the Cubs loyal fan base, and the fact that it's much easier to get tickets to a Cubs game at Miller Park than a Cubs game a Wrigley. This is undoubtedly a good thing.

The Cubs came into the series against the Brewers with a 2-4 record, all 6 games at Wrigley Field. Today's 11-4 thrashing puts the Cubs at 6-4 against the Brewers all season, 14-10 over the last 2 years and more importantly, 8-2 at Wrigley North. The Cubs and Brewers will face off 6 more times this season, over the last 12 games when, most likely, the Central Race will still be on the line. It's nice to see that the Cubs road woes don't apply to Milwaukee with a 6 game swing hanging in the balance in the closing weeks. Many are saying that this series exhibited a Playoff Atmosphere, and you can't blame them.

Things that have worried the Cubs and Cub Fans heading into this series with the Brewers were:

  • Rich Harden - Coming into the series: He's pitched mightily well since coming to the NL. In 3 NL starts he pitched 17 innings and 30 Strikeouts to 8 walks and 8 hits. 2 of those hits were HRs (in 2 separate games) and he'd given up 2 ERs. The glaring number in those 3 starts though was the 0-1 record with 2 No decisions.
  • Rich Harden - Today: 7 innings, 6 hits, 0 walks, 9 Ks, 1 ER (on a HR) but most importantly his record now is 1-1. If he can continue to hold opponents to 1 run or less, which he has in all 4 of his starts, those wins should pile up coming into the postseason.
  • Road Offensive Production - Coming into the series: Since the All-Star Break the Cubs had scored 8 runs total in their 6 losses but had managed offensive explosions in their 4 wins of 9, 10, 6, and 9 runs. The Cubs need to score runs more efficiently. When the Bats go silent, they go silent almost 1-9 in the lineup. Not to mention they have sturggled against good pitchers and had a Batting Average of almost .050 points lower on the road.
  • Road Offensive Production - Today: The Cubs put up 6, 7, 7, and 11 runs over the last 4 games but most importantly those hits are coming from everyone 1-9. During this 4 game series the Cubs had 49 hits and 5 HRs, Soriano and Edmonds each had 2 HRs (Edmonds only played today). Those 4 games worth of offensive outburst just so happened to be on the road against 4 of the Brewers starters including All Star Game starter and 10 game winner Ben Sheets, Reigning AL Cy Young Winner and undefeated 4 game winner (since coming over) CC Sabathia, and 9 game winner Manny Para.
  • Road Record - Coming into the series: The Cubs were 22-30 on the road and 6-12 over their last 6 road series'.

    This is something that scares Cub Fans, especially since Dan Uggla blew the All Star game for the National League.
  • Road Record - Today: They just swept the Brewers on the road.
I for one am excited about the remainder of the season. Again, as a Cub fan I'm not running out and buying my NLDS, NLCS, or World Series tickets just yet, I've seen too many years of heartbreak. But also as a Cub fan, I've got to say I can't remember the last time the Cubs played this well all season and were defending the division lead, not chasing a division leader/Wild Card. The Cubs were floundering since the All Star Break but have, apparently, managed to right the ship a little bit. The bats are making some noise, Dempster is finally winning on the road, and Harden is finally getting some run support. Winners of their last 5, and 7 of the last 9 the Cubs are looking down at the rest of the Central Division heading into August for the first time in a long time. Also a big screw you to Brewer manager Ned Yost and former and once again "Piece of Crap" Eric "Fluke Season" Gagne for intentionally throwing behind Edmonds in the 9th inning of today's game. Down 9-1 in the Top of the 9th Gagne (behind 3-0 in the count) very obviously threw a pitch a foot and a half behind the Cub CF who was 2 for 3 with 2 HRs and 5 RBIs up to that point. Gagne was immediately ejected and his line reads 1 ER in 0.0 innings and raises his ERA (only slightly) to 6.59 on the season. 2 batters later Edmonds crossed the plate for his 4th run of the game, the Cubs 10th.

I will also take this chance to toot my own horn. To the Brewers fans who got angry after my NL Central Preview when I said "If Gagne performs like he did most of 2007 in Boston, especially with the newfound Mitchell accusations, it could be one of the biggest busts in franchise history." Well it would appear I was right. And, while completely un-related, I would like to point out to Aaron who said, "Aaron Harang isn't Cy Young caliber? Are you kidding? You can't claim to be an NL Central "expert" and make claims like that..." Well Aaron (I wonder if it was Aaron Harang trying to boost his own self esteem). Harang is 3-11 with a 4.76 ERA and is on the DL. So since I had the Cubs Brewers 1/2 and said Harang wasn't in Cy Young contention, I will retain my status as an NL Cental Expert.