By the time Derrek Lee left the game in the bottom of the first inning with what was described by Len & Bob as a "neck strain", the Cubs were down to one healthy reserve position player -- Koyie Hill, who eventually did get into the game on a double switch and singled in his first at-bat in 13 days.
But the star of today's 10-3 Cubs blowout of the Cardinals was Kosuke Fukudome, who celebrated his 32nd birthday by going 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored, his fourth homer of the year and 5 RBI.
Who says the Cubs can't step up when it's most needed? Rich Harden made only a couple of mistakes, both hit for solo homers (if you have to give them up, best with no one on base) and he struck out nine, giving him 37 strikeouts in 21 innings so far this season -- tying him with Johan Santana for the major league lead, despite throwing four fewer innings than Santana.
The Cubs took it right to Todd Wellemeyer in the first inning; the first four Cubs reached base, including D-Lee with a RBI double before he had to leave the game. It appears, as of now, that (like virtually the entire team, it seems) he's day-to-day. Fortunately, word is that Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Marmol could return as soon as tomorrow in Arizona, which would be good news for the offense. That offense could have suffered another blow when Alfonso Soriano was hit in the head by Wellemeyer in the second inning in a play that was eerily reminiscent of the beaning that Sammy Sosa took from Pittsburgh's Salomon Torres almost exactly six years ago, on April 20, 2003. Soriano stayed in the game and later doubled off Wellemeyer and also made several defensive plays with the traditional hop, so he appears to be fine.
Micah Hoffpauir, who subbed for Lee, slammed his second homer of the season off reliever P. J. Walters (wasn't he supposed to be in the Cardinals' rotation?), and Aaron Miles had three hits, raising his average up to the Mendoza Line at .200. All told the Cubs had 14 hits, five for extra bases.
If you are still on the ledge and are in need a couple of bad things to worry about, they're the same things the rest of us have been worrying about -- Joey Gathright pinch-hit and looked bad again, striking out, and Neal Cotts still can't throw strikes, issuing another walk which resulted in the Cardinals' third run (when Lou came out to talk to him while he was facing his first hitter, it appeared to be another "throw freakin' strikes" visit). I wouldn't be surprised if Jason Waddell replaces Cotts soon, maybe even before the series at Arizona.
For the rest of us, think about this: the Cubs denied the Cardinals, the hottest team in the NL, a perfect homestand and have split six games with them so far this season. St. Louis just swept the Mets, who are supposed to be a force in the NL East this year. For a depleted Cub team to play this well and win, I think bodes well for the Arizona series, and it ought to be a pleasant flight for the team this evening to Phoenix. And for me, be happy too. Between batters and innings, I finished both crossword puzzles in the Sunday Tribune magazine. Who says print is dead?