Fall was definitely in the air at Wrigley Field on Friday, blown in from the west on 20 MPH winds -- at least that's what the official game time wind speed said, but some of the gusts were much higher than that.
One of those gusts took Blake DeWitt's two-out, sixth-inning fly ball into the right-field bleachers, breaking a 4-4 tie with a three-run homer. The Cubs bullpen tried to give the game back to the Mets; fortunately, NY homers were with no one on base and the Cubs held on for a 7-6 win. That improved the team record in one-run games to a still bad 18-30 -- but the good news is, the Cubs have now won their last four one-run games and improved to 7-3 under Mike Quade.
Listening to Quade on the postgame show driving home, I was impressed by his attention to detail and his understanding of the troubles Randy Wells has had this year and what they're trying to do to help him. Ryne Sandberg -- who was named PCL Manager of the Year today -- is still my first choice. But Quade is clearly a good baseball man and has done a good job so far. If Sandberg does get the job, Quade as his bench coach would be a reasonable choice.
DeWitt, meanwhile, hit his fourth HR in 110 plate appearances as a Cub. I don't expect him to become a major power hitter -- but at age 25, he could still improve. Maybe he could hit a dozen homers a year from a position where the Cubs have had little power since... well, since that guy named Sandberg was there.
R.A. Dickey, likely the first knuckleballer the Cubs have seen since Tim Wakefield faced them in 2005, baffled them for the first three innings, only once throwing a pitch that measured above 74 MPH on the Wrigley pitch speed meter. (It was an 84 MPH fastball). DeWitt hit a single in the third, the only hit in those first three innings.
Something must have clicked after everyone saw him once, because in the fourth, Starlin Castro, Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady singled for one run, and then Alfonso Soriano -- perhaps the only Cub who has a lot of experience against knuckleballers, since he had 41 PA against Wakefield (and four HR) in the American League -- hit a three-run homer off Dickey that needed NO help from the wind, and gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
Randy Wells settled down after yet another awful first inning. If the Cubs can just fix that, Wells should be fine; he now has a 7.00 ERA this year in the first inning, a 4.09 ERA in all other innings. Quade may have left him in one batter too long; Mets outfielder Lucas Duda got his first MLB hit and RBI in the sixth, tying the game and then Wells was yanked for James Russell.
Then Quade did something I didn't understand; he let Russell bat for himself after DeWitt's home run, and then took him out anyway for Andrew Cashner. Why? It's not like the other night when he could have been accused of "piling on" in a blowout -- with a three-run lead in the sixth, you certainly want more runs.
Cashner and Sean Marshall both gave up solo home runs. David Wright's in the seventh off Cashner needed no wind help, but the one from just-recalled SS Luis Hernandez did get a push from the gusty blasts.
Thankfully, "good" Carlos Marmol showed up to post his 26th save, but not until the wind did a number on a popup from Joaquin Arias (seriously, who are these guys? I didn't recognize half the Mets starting lineup), which dropped foul, after which Marmol walked him. Marmol's K of Ike Davis was his 115th of the year, setting a personal career high. The Cubs team record for a pitcher who threw exclusively in relief is 129, set by Bruce Sutter in 1977. He did it in 107.1 innings -- Marmol has thrown 64.1 innings through today.
Always nice to win. I like what I've seen out of this team over the last two weeks -- granted that a lot of it is against other bad teams. Let's get 'em again tomorrow.