You are getting an object lesson this week in what happens when a bad team plays a really bad team. The Cubs, playing the role of the "bad" team, defeated the "really bad" team, the Diamondbacks, for the second day in a row, 9-2, making this the Cubs' first baby winning streak of the 2014 season, two games.
Just how bad are the Diamondbacks? I'll get to that. First, let's talk about Mike Olt, whose three-run homer in the fifth inning broke open a close game. Manager Rick(y) Renteria said this is getting Olt closer to being an everyday player:
"I think we’ve talked about him again gradually getting him into that role," Renteria said after Olt hit his fourth home run to help the Cubs (7-12) win consecutive games for the first time this season. "Do I plan on playing him (Wednesday)? Yes. "But everything is very calculated. I’m going to throw him out there and let him run with it a little bit. We’re still measuring everything, still trying to be guarded, but he’ll be in there."
"Calculated"? "Guarded"? What is this, a secret-agent mission?
Well... okay, I guess, but it appears Olt will at least get a chance to show he can handle being in the lineup every day. We know he's going to strike out a fair amount. He's probably not going to post a batting average much north of .250, if that. But I believe he will draw some walks, play some decent defense (he's obviously been wound up way too tight so far, making errors he probably shouldn't), and hit home runs. He's now the team leader with four -- in just 42 at-bats, and despite a .190 BA, he's slugging .512, and his .760 OPS gives him an OPS+ of 103, which to me is at least good enough for an extended stay at third base.
The other story of the night was Jason Hammel, who threw seven outstanding innings. His only real mistake was allowing Tuffy Gosewisch's first major-league home run in the sixth. Tuffy's real name is "James Benjamin Gosewisch," in case you were wondering. I shouldn't make too much fun; instead, give Tuffy credit. He's 30 and made his first Opening Day roster this year after nine years and almost 2,800 minor-league plate appearances.
Hammel could have, with a bit better defense, taken a no-hitter into the middle innings. Anthony Rizzo failed to throw to Hammel on an infield grounder by Chris Owings in the third, even though Hammel was ready to take the throw; Owings beat it out for the D'backs first hit. In the fourth, Prado's grounder was knocked down by Luis Valbuena, but Luis couldn't make the play. (In fairness, that was a much tougher chance.)
Overall, Hammel was excellent, helped also by some really nice defensive plays by Starlin Castro, who had nine assists and snagged a line drive that started an inning-ending double play after Prado's single. The Cubs broke the game open in the eighth inning, and here's where you begin to see why the Diamondbacks are as bad as they are. Randall Delgado, the almost-Cub, had entered the game in relief to start the sixth inning. He was breezing along, having retired seven of the eight hitters he faced. He had thrown 41 pitches, which isn't a terribly large number against eight hitters, although it was the most he had thrown since being removed from the D'backs rotation about two weeks ago.
Again, he was breezing along. But Kirk Gibson had an idea! He brought in J.J. Putz to pitch the rest of the inning. Or so he thought.
Putz pitched like... a putz. He struck out Junior Lake, but then allowed a walk, an infield single that he couldn't handle, another walk and a pop-fly single. That scored three runs, and then Gibson showed his grit by bringing in yet another pitcher, lefthander Joe Thatcher, to face Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo dumped a little ground ball toward third base, where no one was standing due to the usual Rizzo shift, and Justin Ruggiano was eventually tagged out at third, but not before a fourth Cubs run had scored in the inning, which took about 20 minutes to complete.
Blake Parker extended the game by allowing the D'backs a consolation run in the ninth inning; the game probably should have taken about 30 minutes less than it actually did. All of this late-inning silliness would have been much better on a warmer night, but it was getting pretty cold by the time the game ended; probably fewer than 1,000 people saw Lake catch Eric Chavez's fly ball for the final out.
The Diamondbacks, my friends, are a bad, bad team. Which is strange, to me, because at least on paper, the Diamondbacks have a decent lineup -- most of the same players produced a .500 season in 2013. The D'backs did suffer a big loss when their top starter, Patrick Corbin, was lost to injury for the season. Still, they don't appear to be 5-18 bad. And if you think that's really bad, consider this: At one point in their horrific start to the 1981 season, the Cubs were 5-27. The Diamondbacks would have to lose nine more games in a row to be that bad.
That actually seems possible. The Cubs have played well the last two games. They've got their top starter going this afternoon.
Speaking of which, the Cubs will be celebrating the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps you've heard about this. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.