My friend Mike likes to say, "If anyone ever tells you they've got this game figured out, laugh in their face."
That's a pretty good way to describe today's 11-4 Cubs win over the Giants, their second win by that score this week.
The win snapped a six-game Giants winning streak during which they had allowed a total of 10 runs. Read that again -- the offensively-challenged Cubs today scored in one game more runs than the Giants had allowed in their last six games combined. This Cubs season has made very little sense, so why not a game like this?
Reed Johnson made a catch in the well at the wall in right field of a deep drive by, of all people, Mike Fontenot, in the second inning after Ryan Dempster had a shaky first where he struck out the side, but threw 34 pitches and gave up three hits and a run. The catch may have energized Dempster, as he wound up with 11 total K's and just one more run allowed before he had to be taken out after six frames with 114 pitches. It was Dempster's third straight quality start and his ERA, though still in high orbit around Planet Baseball, dropped below 7 at 6.71.
Johnson, who was signed as a non-roster free agent and the last player to make the 25-man roster this spring, has been outstanding in a reserve role. In addition to the catch, he had three hits including the biggest blow of the Cubs' five-run seventh inning, a bases-loaded triple. In 37 at-bats this season he's hitting .405/.465/.649 with eight RBI, very productive for a part-time player. What's even stranger is that Reed, who has a reputation for "can only hit lefthanders", is hitting .353 against LHP (in 17 AB), which is great. But he's also hitting .450 (9-for-20) against right-handed pitchers this year, with four extra-base hits including the triple, which was hit off Giants right-handed reliever Guillermo Mota.
The game was close at 3-2 until the Cubs teed off on Mota and Jeremy Affeldt for five runs; in addition to Reed's triple, a leadoff walk to Kosuke Fukudome, a RBI double from Darwin Barney, and Marlon Byrd getting hit to load the bases were some of the highlights. One of those runs giving the Cubs that three-run second inning was produced on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Koyie Hill. I can't figure him out either; he's not a great hitter nor defensive catcher, but the Cubs are now 4-1 in games he has started.
Just as bizarre as the baseball Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field was the weather. Temperatures were near 70 in the area near the ballpark in the morning, and close to 80 in some of the western suburbs. Late in the morning the wind shifted off the lake, temperatures dropped into the low 50s, and a San Francisco type fog rolled in. Just before game time, it cleared briefly and warmed up, but by game time the wind was howling off the lake again and it felt April-like. Or maybe that's being too kind; April may be "the cruelest month" and it sure was here in Chicago this year. We haven't really had a spring and Thursday felt like it might be the only summer-like weather we'll feel here until June. Or July. Or ever. By the time the middle innings came, many fans who showed up in T-shirts and shorts had either headed to the souvenir stands to buy sweatshirts or jackets (reports were that lines at those stands were unbelievably long), or just went home.
That's why it was surprising when Cody Ross smashed a two-run homer to left field off Sean Marshall, who has been outstanding in a setup role this year. Marshall was the only pitcher warming up throughout the Cubs' five-run rally, so instead of protecting a one-run lead, he came in with a six-run advantage. Given the Cubs' and Giants' troubles in hitting home runs this season so far, I thought maybe the teams would get through the entire series without hitting one. Proved wrong in less than one game. Fortunately, that homer didn't really bring the Giants that close and the Cubs tacked on three more off Dan Runzler in the eighth. Carlos Marmol was loosening up, but when the Cubs started scoring seemingly at will, he sat down and Marcos Mateo wound up wrapping up the win.
This team is maddening. One day they look disinterested in a 9-1 loss, the next they smack around one of the league's best pitching staffs. They're still not that far out of it in a weak division. Saturday, Doug Davis makes his Cubs debut against San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong; I assume Justin Berg is on the bubble to go back to Iowa. (Also, Davis has not yet been added to the 40-man roster, which stands at 39.)
The weather forecast for tomorrow looks pretty awful:
Saturday: Showers. High near 52. North wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
Saturday Night: Showers. Low around 45. North wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.
Cub weather? Maybe. Let's go for two straight.