Starting pitcher Travis Wood of the Chicago Cubs delivers against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
So now who "won" the Sean Marshall trade?
I'd say the Cubs are pushing ahead, anyway. Travis Wood -- who I always thought had this kind of talent -- had his third consecutive outstanding start Sunday at Wrigley Field, this time against the Astros. He's now allowed just one earned run in his last 20⅔ innings (ERA of 0.44) and just 17 baserunners in that span (WHIP of 0.823). Today's might have been the best of all three -- just three hits, no walks and four strikeouts, and the Cubs shut out the Astros 3-0, completing the three-game sweep, their second of the season. (Yes, I know, consider the opposition. But still.)
Wood might have had a shot at a no-hitter; the first hit he gave up, a double down the line leading off the fifth inning by J.D. Martinez, just barely eluded Luis Valbuena's glove. The second was a line single to right by Jose Altuve, and the third was a routine ground ball to second allegedly beat out by Brian Bixler. Replays appeared to indicate Bixler was out. One batter later, Wood was removed to a standing ovation; he doffed his cap to the appreciative crowd.
That crowd sat out a 55-minute rain delay in which the only rain was a few sprinkles. It appeared that a dangerous storm was headed to the Wrigley area with 60+ mile-per-hour winds, but the bulk of it shifted south; it poured in the Loop but at Wrigley, all we had were some high winds. Once the storm exited the area, it cleared, the sun came out (though the stadium lights stayed on all game; they could have been turned off before first pitch, but once that pitch is thrown with lights on, they have to stay on), a breeze developed off the lake and it was pleasant all afternoon. Not only that, but the rain delay length, plus the game time of 2:23, was just a few minutes longer than Saturday's game time of 3:05. I much prefer quickly paced, pitchers' duels like Sunday's.
The only discordant note from the crowd was a wave that managed to make it a couple of times around. People, stop this. The wave jumped the shark 20 years ago. Dumb. Done. Knock it off.
Wandy Rodriguez matched Wood for five innings, giving up just a pair of singles, one to Barney and one to Valbuena, but then Wood himself got things going with a smash double down the left-field line. After Starlin Castro (!) ran the count to 3-0, he was intentionally walked and then Anthony Rizzo singled Wood in with the only run that was actually needed. Jeff Baker followed with a two-run double to finish the scoring.
Shawn Camp and Carlos Marmol finished up without incident. Marmol, in fact, looked like the Marmol of old Sunday afternoon -- 12 strikes in 18 pitches, and an effective inning despite giving up a two-out double. Maybe he's back to his previous level of performance. Would you keep him in that case? Or would you use his good performance to try to trade him before the deadline? Personally, I think if I'm TheoJed, I'm on the phone with Brian Cashman trying to get him to the Yankees. They don't need a closer -- Rafael Soriano is doing just fine -- but Marmol could be a fine setup man to go with David Robertson. Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is familiar with Marmol (and Marmol had success under Larry with the Cubs), and maybe the Yankees could even give the Cubs some salary relief.
As I said, keep in mind who the Cubs swept here. Houston is 9-28 on the road this year; the Cubs, nearly as bad at 10-29, could easily go on the upcoming road trip to Atlanta and New York and get swept out of the whole thing. Nevertheless, there were positives out of this 5-1 homestand, particularly the performance of Rizzo, who showed he belongs, and of Wood, who could perhaps become a capable No. 3 starter for years to come, in the Ted Lilly mold.
Meanwhile, the Cubs got a bit of a surprise Sunday with two players named to the NL All-Star team, the first time since 2008 that more than one Cub has gone to the midsummer game. Starlin Castro wasn't really a surprise -- there aren't that many good shortstops around, with Troy Tulowitzki on the shelf -- but Bryan LaHair was, especially given his not-so-great numbers since April. Again, it's probably the lack of good first basemen in the NL (it's really Joey Votto and not many others) that gave LaHair the nod, and despite the fact that LaHair is now playing the outfield, we all know he's really a 1B shoved out of position to get Rizzo in the lineup.
Congratulations to Castro and LaHair; hoping they contribute to a NL victory on July 10.