He hits! He fields! He steals bases! Whoever this guy is who has stolen Ryan Theriot's #2 uniform and has been playing shortstop for the Cubs since Friday, let's keep him around, shall we?
Theriot matched his career high for a season in home runs by smacking his third of the year (and third in four games) with Aaron Miles on base, and that wound up being the difference in a 4-2 Cubs win over the Giants, the team's fourth in a row. With the blast (all three of The Riot's homers have been no-doubt-about-it), he tied Kosuke Fukudome for the team lead in RBI with 15; and with the Reds' loss in 14 innings in Miami (on a thrown-away potential DP ball) and the Cardinals' loss to the Phillies (in which St. Louis went through seven pitchers), the Cubs took over sole possession of second place in the NL Central and moved to 2.5 games behind the Cards. Theriot seems to have taken Lou's advice to "drive the ball" to heart. If he can do this even occasionally, it will make him a far more useful player.
Like the wins over the Marlins over the weekend, this game had a 2008 feel to it. Ryan Dempster threw seven solid innings; he had only one bad frame where the Giants scored both their runs, and the second run wouldn't have scored if Aaron Miles had been able to handle a sure DP throw from Aramis Ramirez; Bengie Molina, perhaps the slowest runner in the majors, was hoofing his way down the first base line and would have been easily doubled up, except that Miles dropped the ball. Second base umpire Chris Guccione emphatically called the runner, Pablo Sandoval, out at second, but by then Molina was safe and the second run had scored. Carlos Marmol looked like the 2008 Marmol as well, allowing a single but striking out two, and Kevin Gregg finished up for his fourth save, although it took an excellent running catch in left-center field by Reed Johnson to record the final out of the game. It is nice, though, to see pitchers settling into defined bullpen roles. Before Marmol came into the game, Neal Cotts and Aaron Heilman were warming up in the 7th, which was the role Lou had envisioned for those two during spring training.
Before the game, Carlos Zambrano was placed on the 15-day DL with what was described as a "Grade 2 strain" of his left hamstring. As he did last year, Z tried to talk management out of it:
"Z wanted to throw a bullpen," Piniella said. "He wanted to throw a bullpen tomorrow. We did the right thing. The danger with this thing is [if he comes back] too early, you hurt it more and now it's a six- to eight-week thing and that we can't have."
He'll be eligible to come off the DL on May 19, and with two off days between now and then, if there are no setbacks and he heals properly, he should be on target to start on May 20 in St. Louis, missing only two turns. Bobby Scales was added to the 40-man roster (in the quaint baseball terminology used in press releases, Scales was "selected" from Iowa) and issued uniform #24, but will have to wait at least till this afternoon to make his major league debut. In his postgame press conference, Lou mentioned that he'd be giving a number of regulars the day off today (specifically stating that Koyie Hill will get the start behind the plate); I'd guess that even the hot-hitting Theriot, who has started every game, might sit today against Tim Lincecum. Derrek Lee, who walked three times last night, might also sit in favor of Micah Hoffpauir. Oh, and incidentally, qwitchercomplaining about D-Lee. Though he's still not turning on the ball the way he used to -- there is at least one thing he's NOT doing this year that is a good thing. In 23 games covering 87 at-bats, he has zero GIDP. In fact, the Cubs have only 17 as a team, which is sixth-best in the NL.
Onward. In addition to everything else, it appears we will have a real spring this year -- pleasant temperatures and no persistent lake breeze -- unlike the drizzly, cold springs of recent years that lingered into June. Last night was pleasant, with temperatures near 60, and it may push close to 70 degrees today. There will be a preview post up for this afternoon's game at 11:30 am CDT.