Happy Cubs: Kosuke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs is congratulated by Starlin Castro after scoring a run during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on June 8, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Well, that was unexpected.
When today's game began, Ryan Dempster was still in the bullpen -- very unusual for a starting pitcher, even the visiting team's. There was speculation on TV that he might not even be able to go, and he had a shaky first inning, and Rodrigo Lopez was up.
But Dempster got out of the jam, and the Cubs hit... now seriously, they really did, I am not inventing this... back-to-back home runs, one from Carlos Pena with a man on base (!) and then from Aramis Ramirez, and Dempster wound up putting in six solid innings. Thus, the following deserves its own paragraph:
Does that solve all this team's problems? Of course not. But wins are better than losses, any day, any time, and in a ballpark where it's suddenly been very difficult for the Cubs to win at all. Since the start of 2010 the Cubs were 2-9 in Great American Ball Park before today's win.
Dempster looked like he would run out of steam just about any moment; it was hot and humid in Cincinnati this afternoon and he threw a ton of pitches in the first three innings, finally allowing a run on a single by Drew Stubbs, a stolen base, a groundout and another single. But those were two of only three hits he allowed, and besides a walk and hitting Brandon Phillips with a pitch, that was all Dempster allowed. He struck out eight and lowered his ERA under 6 (OK, just a little under 6 at 5.98) for the first time in what seems like forever.
Meanwhile, the back-to-back home runs also seemed like it was the first time in forever, although the Cubs did it a little more than a month ago, when Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto went back-to-back on April 29 at Arizona.
The rest of the game went exactly like the preseason blueprints had it going: Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol shut the Reds down for an inning each, allowing just one hit and striking out four. Marmol put up his 11th save.
As I wrote, this isn't a solution to anything; the Cubs are still old and injured, and now have to play four games in Philadelphia, a tough place for anyone to win (the Phillies are tied for second in the majors with 20 home victories).
Nevertheless, wins are good. Wins are happy. Be happy, for a day at least. The Cubs won today.