Quick trivia question: Who's in first place in the NL Central?
That would be the Cubs.
I'm just going to let you soak that in for a second.
I know, it's only July 27, but the Cubs haven't been in first since April 21, so it's worth enjoying. On top of the fact that the Cardinals lost (despite DeRosa's fourth home run as a Cardinal), the Astros and Brewers lost, meaning the standings are quite pleasant to look at:
|Chicago Cubs||51||45||.531||-||30-18||21-27||411||393||+18||Won 4||8-2|
|St. Louis||53||48||.525||.5||26-21||27-27||444||424||+20||Lost 2||4-6|
And after the Cubs' second sweep in their last three series, let's put a couple of theories to bed:
1) Rich Harden needs to pitch at night.
Gimme a break. A story in the Trib last week indicated that the Cubs would try to have Harden pitch at night, though it also had him pitching in his normal spot in the rotation, so the story seemed a bit nonsensical to me. With Lilly going on the DL, there was concern from some corners that Harden had to be moved up to Sunday to pitch during the day. Unless Harden is half-human, half-bat (the flying kind, not the hitting kind), the whole thing seems utterly ridiculous to me.
First of all, Harden's career day/night splits are practically identical; it's only this year that a significant difference has appeared. Second, I'm much more prepared to give credence to home/road splits (see: Ervin Santana, who was 6-4 with a 3.27 ERA at home in 2007, but 1-10 with an 8.38 ERA on the road), where the crowd, ballpark quirks, and mound can affect performance. But day vs. night? Absurd.
Harden helped prove this point on Sunday with six amazing innings (and just 90 pitches) in which he allowed just one baserunner. Cub killer Joey Votto launched a 1st inning home run, but that was literally all the Reds could muster against Harden. By the way, Joey Votto is definitely a starter on the All-Cub Killer Team, joining Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Craig Counsell, Jeff Blauser, and others. Votto has hit 11 of his 47 career HR against the Cubs.
By the way, Harden's last three starts: 19 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 21 K (0.95 ERA)
2) Soriano can only hit in the leadoff spot.
Up until this year, Soriano bitched and moaned every time it was suggested he should hit lower in the lineup. Despite no longer being a threat to steal and never having been an OBP guy, a change seemed to make sense. Now I'll admit that I never got too caught up in this debate, mainly because the Cubs led the NL in runs scored in 2008 with him at the top. My thought was: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
But Soriano has been broke this year. His OBP has plummeted to .315, and instead of providing an immediate energy boost at the top, he's been a buzzkill.
But wait, what do we have here? Soriano is hitting .392 with 3 HR in the 6th spot in the order. He added a single and a double on Sunday. Soriano is much better suited to bat in the middle of the order, and perhaps even he realizes that after his recent run of success.
Did you know ...
Heading into Sunday, there had been 160 home runs hit at the new Yankee Stadium this year. So what, right? Well, there were 160 home runs hit at the old Yankee Stadium all of last year. That's 51 games compared to 81, and 0ver three home runs per game this year compared to under two per game last year.
Quote of the day
"When he pitched his last no-hitter in 2007, we lost five in a row, and now we've lost three," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Mark Buehrle, this is all your fault."
Holy hole in one!
Courtesy of Leif Olson in the Canadian Open.