Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday: Cubs 4, Braves 2
Randy Wells has now won four consecutive starts, and his 2.48 ERA would rank fourth in the NL if he had pitched enough innings to qualify. His 6 IP, 2 ER performance was the ninth time in 11 starts that he's allowed two or fewer runs. It's nice to see him getting the wins he deserves after missing out on some chances early in the season.
And Derrek Lee continued his tear, hitting his fifth home run in six games. Tonight's game marks the true halfway point of the season, game #81. Assuming Lee does nothing tonight (for the sake of argument), he would be on pace for 32 HR and 106 RBI. Not bad for a guy who couldn't square up a beach ball at the end of last year or the beginning of this one.
Aramis Ramirez finally returned, and though he went 0-for-4, it was great to see him out on the field. Piniella also said that Reed Johnson will bat leadoff against lefties, though they're not scheduled to see a southpaw until after the All-Star break.
I'm not sure why Fuld was sent down instead of Hoffpauir (Micah grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance Monday), but Patton going on the DL is a shrewd move. He's never used in key situations anyways, and hopefully the Cubs can continue to get quality starts (a statistic in which they lead the National League) so that our undermanned bullpen isn't overworked in the next six days.
Whilst we continue our series with the Braves, the Brewers and Cardinals will go head-to-head starting tonight. If the Cubs take care of business, they will gain ground on one of the teams they're pursuing. And when the Cubs take on the Cards this weekend, the Brewers have to deal with the Dodgers. It should be a very exciting week heading into the break.
On a side note, Gene Wojciechowski thinks the Cubs will win the NL Central.
Monday's game was a close one, with the Cubs pulling out of the gate with a 4-0 lead, but failing to score after the 2nd while allowing the Braves to creep into it. We can probably expect two more close games, as the Cubs and Braves are remarkably similar teams. Heading into the series, here's how the hitting and pitching compared:
Atlanta: 344 runs scored, 3.89 ERA
Chicago: 332 runs scored, 3.88 ERA
And the teams' records reflect these similarities--the Cubs had one more win than the Braves when the series began.
The Braves' rotation is one of the more underrated in the majors. Derek Lowe leads the pack (though he's struggled lately), followed by Javier Vazquez (8th in NL ERA), Jair Jurrjens (5th in NL ERA), rookie phenom Tommy Hanson (4-0, 2.25), and weakest-but-not-that-weak link Kenshin Kawakami brings up the rear.
Like the Cubs, the only reason the Braves aren't piling up wins is because of an underwhelming offense: Chipper Jones leads the team with nine home runs (yes, nine home runs leads the team), Jeff Francoeur is hitting .244, and Yunel Escobar (aka He Who Faked Mortal Injury After Not Getting Hit By a Pitch and Therefore I Will Hate Him Forever) leads the team with just 42 RBI.
And like the Cubs, their 12th ranked bullpen hasn't helped matters either, but a 4.10 ERA isn't terrible.
If the Braves fall out of it and decide to become sellers, they have some moveable pieces such as Escobar and Vazquez. But for now, they're focused on this year. You'll recall they acquired OF Nate McLouth in early June. McLouth is batting .277 with 5 HR and 15 RBI in 24 games with the Braves.