Now here's something that can give us hope for 2010.
Randy Wells gave up a leadoff double to Stephen Drew and then shut the Diamondbacks down. He retired the next 14 in a row and allowed only two other hits, striking out ten, and the Cubs shut out the Diamondbacks 5-0. For the Cubs it was their eighth team shutout of the year (and third in their last eight games), and their first win over Arizona since April.
Wells set a season (and career) high with the 10 K's, and the seven innings pitched qualify him for the ERA leaders list -- at 3.05, he will rank 10th in the league (unless Josh Johnson of the Marlins, who will go in the season's final game tomorrow vs. the Phillies with a 3.08 ERA, passes him). He also walked only one this afternoon, completing 2009 with 46 walks in his 165.1 innings pitched -- that ranks 12th in the NL in fewest walks for anyone who has 162 or more innings this season. Randy also registered his 12th win of the season; in all of Cubs history only seven pitchers won more games in their rookie season. The 3.05 ERA also ranks sixth among all Cubs rookie pitchers who qualified for the league ERA title. (Note: Wells doesn't appear on those lists because before today's game he didn't have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Now he does.)
Randy is never going to overpower anyone, although today he had the Diamondbacks flailing away at his pitches, which he mixed up well. In his 27 starts he went fewer than five innings only three times, and today was his ninth outing of seven innings or more. Earlier this year I compared him to former Cub righthander Kevin Tapani. He resembles Tapani in several ways -- stature, pitching motion, the age at which he first established himself in the major leagues. And Tapani was a good #3 or #4 starter for 13 years, and was a key contributor to three playoff teams.
If the Cubs get that out of Randy Wells before he leaves the game, we will all be very happy.
While Wells and Esmailin Caridad (a 1-2-3 eighth) and Carlos Marmol (a 1-2-3 ninth) were keeping the Diamondbacks off the bases, the Cubs were drawing walks and hitting the hapless Daniel Cabrera all over the yard. The biggest blows were a two-run triple from Reed Johnson -- this, a guy who suffered a serious foot injury two months ago -- and two hits and two RBI from Geovany Soto. With his two hits and two walks Geo got his OPS above .700 (to .710). It's a big dropoff from his .868 Rookie of the Year OPS from last year, but at least he appears to be improving in September after an awful August. Geo needs to dedicate himself to losing weight and getting in shape and reporting to Mesa in February ready to recover his production level of 2008.
I was glad that Lou gave Tyler Colvin a start in front of the home crowd; he had an RBI single, and while he's probably not in the mix for a job at Wrigley in 2010, he should be ready to produce in Triple-A next year and be ready to challenge for the major league roster in 2011.
It was also nice to see Marmol throw an efficient inning, looking like the Marmol of old, even though it wasn't a save situation. This should also give him good confidence going into next year. The three pitchers, throwing strikes (87 out of 130 total Cub pitches), allowed the game to end in two hours and eleven minutes. That was the fastest nine-inning game at Wrigley Field since Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster (then the closer) dispatched the Astros in 2:05 on June 11, 2007. Just in time, too -- about five minutes after the last out, a light rain began to fall.
Speaking of rain, here's a final word I heard today about Thursday's rainout and why MLB wanted so badly to have all games played this season. Up to Thursday, no MLB games had been cancelled this year and it seemed possible that every team would play the full 162 games. Instead, with the Cubs having one fewer game than everyone except the Pirates, it's possible that the Cubs could rank ahead of the Rays and/or Mariners, whose records as of today are similar to the Cubs. MLB simply wanted to avoid that "half-game scenario", but Thursday's weather prevented that. That's the reason they waited so long.
And tomorrow, we wrap things up on the Cubs for 2009, we hope, with a win to at least send us off with a good last memory.