For most of Monday night at Wrigley Field, it appeared the competing teams had reversed roles.
Where did that come from? Casey Coleman limited the Brewers to just two hits in six innings: a solo homer by Jerry Hairston (of all people in that lineup) and a Prince Fielder double. He struck out a career-high eight batters and looked -- well, he looked like a solid major league pitcher. If only he could bring some consistency into his repertoire, maybe the Cubs could use him as a fifth starter in 2012. He did appear to have made some adjustments to his windup and motion. Whatever it was, it worked.
Meanwhile, Geovany Soto -- mired in a horrific 7-for-65 slump in which he had struck out 22 times -- hit a pair of two-run homers and drove in all five runs in the Cubs' 5-2 win over the Brewers. Soto' first homer, in the third inning, gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead after Hairston's blast, and was caught on the fly by Ballhawk Dave. It was the first home run hit by a Cub onto Waveland Avenue this year -- it took 79 of the 81 games to accomplish something that used to be routine.
The only sour note to Monday night's win was sounded by Carlos Marmol, who gave up a home run to Casey McGehee and then consecutive singles. That created a save situation -- not for him, since you can't put yourself into a save situation -- but Mike Quade refused to get anyone up in the bullpen. Actually, why wasn't Andrew Cashner in the game with the score 5-1? Cashner hadn't pitched in five days and it would have been a perfect situation to use him. Or if not Cashner, then why not the just-recalled Rafael Dolis, to make his MLB debut?
Ah, Mike Quade. We'll miss ripping these inscrutable decisions to shreds. (We won't miss the decisions themselves, after you are no longer Cubs manager.)
Since the Cardinals defeated the Phillies Monday night, the Brewers' magic number to clinch the NL Central remained at four. Since there are only three possible game outcomes before Milwaukee leaves town (Cubs/Brewers and Cardinals/Mets tonight, and Cubs/Brewers Wednesday afternoon -- the Cards and Mets meet Wednesday night), Milwaukee cannot clinch the division title before this series ends. Good. It's never fun to watch another team clinch on your field. And it would be even more fun if the Cubs could win the remaining games in this series and make Milwaukee a bit nervous. Monday night's game seemed the one that the Cubs were most likely to lose; the pitching matchups are a little more even today and tomorrow. The win, and the Pirates' loss to the Diamondbacks, put the Cubs in a fourth-place tie with Pittsburgh.
Attendance watch: 35,076 was the announced total (maybe 19,000 or so in the house), bringing the season attendance total to 2,950,430. As noted here before, the Cubs will get past the three million mark, though they will have to wait until Wednesday to do it, and total attendance will be about 40,000 below last year's 3,062,973 (a drop in averaged announced tickets sold per game of about 500). But the real story is the no-shows. After Wednesday's game I will post the total attendance since July 22 (when I started keeping estimates) and my guess as to the total in the house. We'll have a fairly close guess, then, as to no-shows for the last 28 dates of the season, which I believe will be a good reflection on the whole season's no-show count, since there were many April and May games when the no-show count was even higher than it was in August and September (June and July had fairly low no-show totals).
Two home games to go, and they both mean something, even if not to the Cubs. I'd like to see them finish up on a high note.