It's a good thing Alfonso Soriano hit two home runs last night, one of them in the ninth inning, because if Chad Fox had come into the game with only a 4-2 lead, we might not be talking about a Cubs victory this morning.
Of course, Fox probably wouldn't have been in the game at all with a 4-2 lead; the only reason Lou decided to give him some work is likely the fact that the Cubs' four-run ninth gave the club a six-run lead, and that's supposed to be safe enough to give the last guy in your bullpen some work.
Safe enough, maybe; but by the time Fox was done, Lou had to summon Kevin Gregg, even though it wasn't yet a save situation. Gregg did allow the Astros' final run to score, but threw only nine pitches in finishing off the 8-5 victory, the Cubs' sixth in their last seven games. With Milwaukee's loss to Cincinnati, the Cubs moved ahead of the Brewers into sole possession of second place, 2.5 games behind the Cardinals, going into this weekend's series against the Brew Crew at Miller Park (didn't we just do this Houston/Milwaukee trip? Thanks, bad schedule makers!).
Can we declare the Chad Fox experiment over, give him his gold watch, and send him off into retirement? Did he inherit the Neifi Perez Memorial Collection of compromising photos of Jim Hendry? He couldn't find the strike zone (8 strikes in 17 pitches, and several of those strikes were hit hard) and appears done. What did he do last night that Jeff Stevens couldn't do? Stevens, despite also having some control issues at Iowa, has given up only four hits in 13 innings for a 0.85 WHIP. I hope Jim Hendry recalls Stevens; he'd be the perfect last guy in the pen, plus, that would give the Cubs at least some positive return in the Mark DeRosa deal. And can we also declare the Joey Gathright experiment over? He misplayed a ball in CF in the 9th last night (getting signals crossed with Soriano) that wound up as an Ivan Rodriguez triple. I'd DFA Gathright today when Randy Wells is called up for tonight's start and keep Bobby Scales as a bench player.
The rest of the team did just fine last night, pounding out 14 hits off Russ Ortiz (again, I ask: why does this guy still have a major league uniform) and five Houston relievers, including a shelling of Felipe Paulino in the 9th (they'd almost have been better off with Ronny Paulino pitching). Meanwhile, Ted Lilly threw a solid six innings; his only real mistake was a two-run homer to Miguel Tejada, surprisingly Tejada's first of the year, which gave the Astros a brief 2-1 lead. They didn't score again until Fox came into the game in the 9th. Four Cubs had at least two hits, and Aramis Ramirez had three, raising his average to .369.
I suppose I protest too much. The club looked good last night; even Ryan Theriot, who got picked off third base and took the Cubs out of a possible big inning in the first, redeemed himself later by walking, doubling and scoring two runs. In addition to the 14 hits, the Cubs drew five walks and continue to be on a pace that will approach the team record for a season (650, set in 1975). There are, though, a couple of players on this roster that just don't belong there, Fox and Gathright. It's time to send them home.