This is a photo of me, my son and my dad at last year's All-Star Game at the Cell.
If you saw the ABC-7 Sunday morning news today, you also saw this photo featured on the air, as the producer of the show asked the anchors and crew to bring in pictures of their dads, a nice tribute on this day.
And today, probably the most gorgeous weather day of the spring so far (the summer solstice hitting tonight at 7:57 pm CT), 69 degrees at game time, though it felt warmer, the Cubs completed another series victory with a decisive 5-3 win over a very good Athletics club, and coupled with the Reds' 6-0 win over the Cardinals, the Cubs moved to within two games of St. Louis with the big upcoming series this week at Busch Stadium.
I don't want to look too far ahead, but I like the probable pitching matchups for next weekend's series at the Cell:
Friday: Mark Prior vs. Jon Garland
Saturday: Carlos Zambrano vs. Scott Schoeneweis
Sunday: Greg Maddux vs. Esteban Loaiza
The Cubs will miss Mark Buehrle, and they did pretty well against Loaiza last year at the Cell. And, that makes the rotation vs. the Cardinals Maddux vs. Marquis (Tuesday), Rusch vs. Suppan (Wednesday), and Clement vs. Williams (who the Cubs have hit hard this year, Thursday).
That's looking ahead. Let's look at today, shall we?
Derrek Lee is... well, using the trite phrase en fuego doesn't do him justice. He is 11 for his last 14, has also walked twice, homered (today, a bomb onto Waveland), and has four RBI.
Hey, naysayers who looked down on the Lee-for-Choi deal when Hee Seop was so hot in April, let's look at a comparison now (stats complete through today):
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Lee 67 248 36 77 25 1 9 44 28 52 5 3 .310 .387 .528 .916
Choi 63 184 35 49 12 1 12 31 33 53 1 0 .266 .383 .538 .921
Man, you can't get too much closer than that. I am, however, particularly impressed with the 25 doubles that Lee has, which would translate to about 58 doubles in a full season. Furthermore, Choi has cooled off to what I would think is about his best level, while I think Lee might increase his power numbers. Today's homer was his ninth, and that's a lot less than he was projected to have, getting out of a poor HR park in Miami, to Wrigley Field. I'll still say he'll have more homers than Choi at the end of the season, and the other numbers will be comparable or better.
Carlos Zambrano struggled with his control today, walking four, and didn't have his sinker working -- he recorded only two outs on ground balls, far different from his normal game. Nevertheless, he slogged through a 122-pitch performance into the 7th, lowered his ERA to 2.25, second in the NL, won his eighth game, and -- dare I say it? -- established himself as perhaps the front-runner to start the All-Star Game for the National League, now that Roger Clemens has proven he is human again.
I did worry a bit about LaTroy Hawkins, who due to Lee's homer wound up in a non-save situation, and after getting two easy outs lost focus and allowed three straight doubles, scoring two A's runs and bringing Mark Kotsay to the plate as the tying run. Luckily, Hawkins struck him out, but Hawkins showed an annoying tendency to do this in spring training, and perhaps someone else should have warmed up in the 8th just in case the save situation was negated. This happens to a lot of closers, oddly enough.
Mike brought his sister, brother-in-law and nephew, who usually make an annual pilgrimage to the bleachers. I have seen this nephew over the years, and he's a nice kid, though about the smallest 13-year-old you've seen. I suppose he's got a growth spurt coming to him. Another family who we didn't know stood behind us today, nice kids and mother, but the father had a few too many and though he wasn't violent, he was getting kind of nasty after I asked him to stop screaming in my ear, and he was saying things like "The Cubs are in my heart and soul" and Howard and I just looked at each other knowingly, thinking, if this guy only knew....
By the sixth inning they had taken off, anyway.
Also arriving today was an old friend of Mike's and mine, who used to sit with us years ago, a woman named Marion who lives up in the general area where Mike used to live way out in the northwest suburbs; they occasionally shared rides home. She walked up to the gate today hoping to get a single seat or standing room and wound up, somehow, with a single bleacher ticket, for a game that was supposedly sold out for months. Hmmmm....
In other superstitions today, Carole called half an hour before the game to say she was in CTA Hell. This usually means a Cub win, but Jeff, Krista and I were all telling her to start walking down the street until a bus came. And, the Tomato Inning didn't really work today -- it splashed over the fourth inning, in scorecard squares that didn't have any batters. There was a tiny bit on the fifth-inning square where Todd Walker's triple resided. We figured we could turn this into a sponsorship deal with Jimmy John's -- hey, maybe we could get free sandwiches out of it, if nothing else.
Can you tell we're happy today? The Cubs reach another high-water mark for the season, nine games over. 500, and as I pointed out to Howard, you don't have to streak to victory. If a team goes six games over .500 every month (say, 17-11, not impossible to do), you win about 95 games. And on what everyone said would be the toughest stretch of the schedule, beginning with the June 7 game against the Cardinals, the Cubs are 10-4.
We hope and believe.