Friday, July 17, 2009

Road Warrior

Thursday: Cubs 6, Nationals 2

Welcome back, baseball. (Aside: is the day after the All-Star Game the worst sports day of the year? There's absolutely NOTHING going on!) And welcome back, Rich Harden. For the first time in three July starts, Harden allowed fewer than 4 ER. He's been right at home on the road all year: his home/road splits entering Thursday were: 2.59 ERA on the road, 7.59 ERA at home. If Piniella could work it so that Lilly only started at Wrigley and Harden only started on the road, the Cubs might never lose again!

While Harden had success Thursday, I still have to ask: Why did Lou decide to hand him the ball out of the break? Of the Cubs' four starters (Dempster excluded as he's on the DL), is Harden really the one you want getting the most starts in the second half?

But negative thoughts aside, it was great to see Harden command the strike zone and even up his record at 6-6. He had more strikeouts (7) than hits and walks combined (3), and he nearly dropped his ERA below that ugly five mark (5.06).

One of the Cubs' more frustrating tendencies in the first half was their inability to tack on runs when they had the lead. So I could not have been happier to see them score one in the 6th, one in the 7th, and three more in the 9th to put the game away. The Cubs reached the 10-hit mark and had knocks from seven different players, including Sam Fuld, who raised his average to .412 with a pinch-hit single.

And I don't care if it's against the Nationals--a win's a win. Besides, John Lannan is a quality pitcher. At 24 years old, Lannan has compiled a 3.86 career ERA in 2+ seasons, won nine games last year on a bad team, and has six thus far in 2009. If the Nationals decide to offer him up when he's no longer arbitration eligible, Lannan will garner serious interest from several teams.

While I'm very pleased about a 4-run Cubs victory to begin the second half, I'm about to do my due diligence and explore the negative aspects of the 6-2 win. Avert your eyes if you'd rather not see the dark side of Thursday's performance.

While Soriano did have a single, giving him at least one hit in seven of his last eight games, he made yet another mental error when he ran into an out on the bases. His bonehead play took the Cubs out of a 1st and 3rd, one out situation, but we'll forgive him on the grounds that he once again saw more pitches than any other Cubs batter (22 in four plate appearances).

And while I'll allow Bradley a little more time before countering his "I'm back" proclamation (though I hope he's right), his 0-for-5 performance wasn't exactly fool-proof evidence that he is, in fact, "back."

And finally, Marmol walked yet another batter in his one inning of work. It marked the 27th (!) time in 47 appearances that Marmol has walked at least one batter, and he's walked more than one 13 times. Marmol is 545th in the majors in walks per nine innings pitched at 9.0. On the bright side, he threw a strike to Derrek Lee at first to pick off the man he walked last night.

But it's only right that I end on a positive note: Derrek Lee continued to torment the baseball, falling a triple short of the cycle to raise his average to .287. He's now slugging .738 in July, 5th best in the National League.

Did you know ...

-Dan Haren of the Diamondbacks leads the NL in ERA (2.01).

-Brian Fuentes of the Angels leads the majors in saves (26).

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