Through yesterday's games, only five complete games had been pitched in the National League in 2008 -- the CG may, at some point, become a thing of the past. (In 2007, three teams -- Washington, Texas, and Florida -- had zero CG, the first time any team had gone through a whole season without one.)
You know that Carlos Zambrano wanted to finish tonight's 3-0 Cub shutout of the Reds -- their second shutout of the year -- but it was left to Kerry Wood, who registered his fifth save of the year, and in easier fashion than many of his previous outings, including a real nasty slider to strike out Edwin Encarnacion for the second out of the 9th. And so, ten years to the day after Kid K's 20-K game, Kerry strikes out two of three in the 9th inning to get a save. Who'da thunk it?
I was out for a while tonight and while listening to the game on WGN radio, Pat and Ron (well, mostly Pat, since Ron had a cold and could barely talk) were commenting that Z didn't have very good velocity, had "hardly thrown a good fastball yet", Pat said in the third inning.
No matter. Z threw 113 pitches, 69 for strikes, and allowed only three harmless singles and three walks, and was never in serious trouble in this fairly swift game that ran only two hours and thirty minutes. In so doing he became the first Cub pitcher this season to go eight innings.
Meanwhile, ONEDEC, who finally managed to get off the bench and into the starting lineup (I'd give BCB credit, since we've been lobbying for this for several days now, but that would be pretty presumptuous. Let's just say Lou made the right call, and gave Mark DeRosa a day off to clear his head), drove in two runs with a single and played good defense. I think we'd all like to see him get more consistent playing time, and the same for Felix Pie, who had a single in four AB, his average creeping up to .232.
If I were making the lineup decision, I'd start ONEDEC again tomorrow, and give DeRo another day off, which would let him rest till Friday. Or, maybe tomorrow would be a good day to give Kosuke Fukudome a day off, since he went 0-for-3 today (and didn't look real good doing it), and let DeRo play RF.
While the Cubs haven't quite righted the ship yet (they're still only 4-8 since hitting the high-water mark for the year at 15-6), it is significant to note that they haven't lost more than two in a row yet this year, and this despite having less than consistent starting pitching. What this tells us, I think, is that they've been able to use multiple weapons to win games. Sometimes they do get good starting pitching. Other times the bullpen holds the opposition down till the offense gets going. Still other times, the offense bludgeons the other side. And sometimes they just get lucky.
All of those things are elements of building a championship team. The Cubs, clearly, are not yet there, and they probably need to change or add some parts, depending on how certain players perform over the next couple of months. But at 19-14, win tomorrow afternoon and they'll have a .500 road trip (yet another mantra of winning: win 2/3 of your games at home, play .500 on the road, and you'll win your division easily), and come home Friday to what shapes up as a terrific matchup with the hottest team in baseball, the Diamondbacks.
Last night BCB reader Unique challenged me to write a recap in the evening if the Cubs came back to win. They didn't, so I didn't. But with the quick win tonight, and a day game tomorrow, I figured I'd take care of this one while it was still fresh. Nicely done, men in blue. See you all tomorrow.