Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Phillies extend longest winning streak since 1991 at Cubs' expense

Tuesday: Phillies 4, Cubs 1 (13 inn.)

Okay, seriously, what's going on with these home/road splits? Ryan Dempster was Dorothy last year ("There's no place like home. There's no place like home"), and this year Lilly has taken that mantle while Harden is the anti-Dorothy. He continued to find success on the road Tuesday with one of his best outings of the year: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Harden has allowed just 4 ER in his last four road starts. And get this: in the Cubs' last six games, Harden is the only starting pitcher to have gone more than five innings, and he's done it twice.

But here's a news flash for you: a good outing by a starting pitcher was wasted due to a lack of offense. The bats have gone back into hibernation, scoring just two runs in two games in a hitters' ballpark against the 13th ranked pitching staff in the National League. Milton Bradley, shortly after announcing that he was "back," was back on the bench for a second straight game. But instead of getting Fox's bat in there, Reed Johnson replaced him as Fukudome moved over to right. With the bats back to their old ways, I'd like to see Fox get in there on a more regular basis.

Last night's game went 13 innings, but you wouldn't know it by checking the Cubs' half of the line score--the offense stopped participating after the 7th inning. From the 8th through the 13th, the Cubs did not have a single hit, and had just one baserunner on hit by pitch. Allow me to repeat: in the last six innings, the Cubs had one baserunner.

The Cubs bullpen, on the other hand, had a great game. They kept the Cubs in the game by allowing just one hit over the last 5 2/3 innings until Jayson Werth ended the game with a home run.

Carlos Marmol may have had his best outing of the year, and though I say this cautiously, he may be building some momentum. In his last four outings, his line is: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. On Tuesday, he was throwing his fast ball up in the zone and getting guys to swing and miss. Throwing that heater up top is great--throwing it a foot outside as he often does is not effective. If he can start to control that fast ball, the Cubs will be in great shape in the 8th and 9th innings.

The good news is that the Cardinals lost to the Astros for the second straight night (despite two home runs by Mark DeRosa), keeping the Cubs within two games of first. The bad news is that the Brewers and Astros (!) pulled into a three-way tie for second.

Can the Astros fade away just one freakin' time? Every year they start terribly and then come on strong in July and August. They were 18-28 on May 27, and today they sit at 48-46 and in a tie for second.

Random link

Over at ESPN, Jerry Crasnick shares his take on the Cubs. Quote worthy: "They have a campus-police-like flair for killing a party mood."

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