Remember yesterday when I told you the Pirates were a bad team? And some of you disagreed with me?
The Pirates are a really, really, really bad team. The Cubs smacked Pirates pitching around again today for 13 runs (this time on 18 hits and seven walks) and completed the series sweep with a 13-6 blowout of the Pirates that wasn't as close as that score.
You could point out -- and some of you did and they also did on the WGN radio postgame show -- that the Pirates are over .500 against the rest of the league. What does that say about the rest of the league? -- that'd be my argument. And this is what a good team is supposed to do against a bad one -- win nearly all the games. So far vs. the dregs of the NL Central -- the Pirates and Astros -- the Cubs are 8-1 (and 11-4 vs. the Central overall). And the Cardinals, who started out so hot, just lost two of three to the Giants, who are even worse than the Pirates.
Example of how bad the Pirates are: their pitching staff issued 19 walks to Cubs hitters in this series.
Now think about that. That's about five percent of all the walks that Cub hitters drew in the entire 2006 season (395 of them that year). Cubs hitters are taking a cue from Kosuke Fukudome (who sat today due to a minor eye problem; he'll be back tomorrow) and are being very, very patient. They have now drawn 81 walks in 18 games -- that's 4.5 walks per game, which would be 729 walks for a full season, or nearly twice as many as they did under the non-base-clogging philosophy of Dusty Baker.
It's easy, Dusty: get guys on base and a lot of them will score. A simple thing, really.
And that's what the Cubs did early and often today. Reed Johnson -- who has been a revelation in the leadoff spot and a good reason why Alfonso Soriano shouldn't ever, ever be placed back in that leadoff spot, ever (did I say ever? And the Cubs are playing better without Soriano. At this point, Alfonso, don't hurry back!) -- led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on Ryan Theriot's single.
Theriot had four hits and a walk today. I know, I know. He's not this good. Yes, I know. He's not going to hit .340. But would any of you -- even those of you who have devoted a ton of time to statistical "proof" that Theriot can never, ever improve and that he's a terrible hitter, etc. etc. admit that maybe, possibly, he might have a career year this year? That maybe he can push his game to a higher level? I heard today that Theriot spent quite a bit of time in the weight room in the offseason. We are seeing the results already -- he's now hit five doubles in eighteen games, and the ball seems to come off his bat with much more authority than it did a year ago. When I say there are things that cannot be measured on a stat sheet, that's one of them. Stats can only tell you what has occurred, and project what might occur in the future -- not tell you with 100% certainty what will occur in the future.
At least admit that it's possible. Deal?
Almost too many kudos to go around today. Aramis Ramirez, always a slow starter, had four hits, four RBI and his fourth HR. I didn't think anyone would hit one today into the teeth of a pretty good wind off the lake, but the Pirates' Ryan Doumit hit two and came up in the 9th with the chance to hit a third, which Mike said would have been the "weirdest 3-HR game since Freddie Patek". Instead, he struck out to end the game.
More weirdness: Ryan Dempster gave up hits to the first two hitters -- then retired twelve in a row, making some good defensive plays (one thing we hadn't seen much of from Dempster, throwing one inning at a time as closer, is that he's a very good infielder), and then fell apart in the fifth, giving up three runs and making the game then close at 5-3 before striking out Adam LaRoche with the bases loaded to end the inning and qualify for his third win. The bullpen today gave up three runs in four innings, but it didn't really matter with the 13-run outburst.
I don't know -- and don't right now have time to look up -- the last time the Cubs scored 13 runs in consecutive games. Phil said to me in our seats, "The Cubs scored 13 runs in every game in this series." No, they didn't, I replied, but it took me a couple of minutes to remember that Friday's score was 3-2.
Which led me to say to Mike, "I can remember game scores from 1974, but I can't remember one from two days ago." That's pretty scary.
That's what kind of day it was, in bright April sunshine but chilly temperatures (48 degrees reported in the boxscore is probably a little lower than it really was). It was so cold that some of the 20something women sitting around us got a little loopy. One of them came up from the shade in the corner to tell her friends that she was "moving because it's too cold down there -- but you all can move into the empty seats if you want." They declined.
The Cubs are clicking on all cylinders right now, and I imagine their confidence level will be high going into the brief two-game interlude with the Mets tomorrow. They'll need that -- the Mets are a better team than the Pirates.
Finally, this morning I noted that Carol Slezak had used a term I used in a post 11 days ago -- "Fukudomania" -- and wondered where she might have seen it. Turns out Bruce Miles used it back in February. Credit where credit is due!