Will the person or people who snatched the real Sergio Mitre from the Earth and replaced him with the clone of Greg Maddux who's made the last two starts wearing #52 in blue -- please leave him here for at least the rest of this season?
Last week I wrote that Mitre's start against the Blue Jays was the most dominant I'd seen all year.
Strike that. Mitre's first career complete game and shutout last night, in his fifteenth major league start, was better.
The Cubs annihilated the Marlins 14-0, the largest margin of victory this season, and it wasn't that close. Once again, as last week, Mitre's ground ball tendencies were something that the opposition could barely get past.
Only six balls were hit out of the infield.
This is something of which most pitchers merely dream. Of the Marlins' five hits, two were infield hits, and only three outs (all fly balls to right field, and two of them in the eighth inning) left the infield. Of the other twenty-four outs, nineteen were on ground balls (including two double plays), two were soft line drives to Neifi!, and three were on strikeouts.
And, as Mike noted in a late-night e-mail to me, there were no walks (on either side), which is one reason a game in which the Cubs slammed out eighteen hits (nine singles, five doubles and four home runs) was over in a snappy two hours and twenty-eight minutes.
For good measure Mitre also had two hits (becoming the third pitcher in the last four games to do so, after Dontrelle Willis and Wade Miller), raising his batting average to a ridiculous .364 (4-for-11). Everyone here still want to trade this guy? I didn't think so. Instead, Howard, Mike, Jeff and I began the debate of "what are you going to do with him when Wood and Prior come back?"
It's a nice problem to have, isn't it?
It was very windy last night. The boxscore reported the wind as 17 MPH, but it seemed much stronger than that, and a cold front had gone through the area about midafternoon, dropping the temperature to 72 at game time (and into the 60's later in the evening). The wind was so strong that Howard, who had come in proudly wearing a free cap reading "Summer of Baseball" he received from filling out a car-dealer survey outsider the ballpark, lost the cap as it flew off his head and over the fence in the seventh inning.
Nonetheless, the Cubs' hitting prowess needed no wind. None of the four homers was wind-aided, and the doubles that kept sailing into the gap in RCF between the two Juans (Pierre and Encarnacion) were just as hard-hit.
Speaking of balls hit like that, either Derrek Lee (who had already singled, doubled and homered) didn't know he had a chance to hit for the cycle in the eighth inning, or he didn't want to further embarrass his former team. Immediately after Jerry Hairston pinch-hit for Corey Patterson (who was a sad-looking 0-for-4 again) and tripled in between those same two Juans, Lee came up and hit a ball to nearly the identical spot.
All of us knew what was possible, and the entire ballpark was screaming, urging him to try it, but Lee pulled up at second with an easy RBI double.
Oh, well. All he did was go 4-for-5 with the aforementioned homer and 3 RBI, raising his average to .386 and moving back into the Triple Crown lead, tying Carlos Lee of Milwaukee with 56 RBI -- putting him on pace for 46 HR and 144 RBI.
And I don't want to give Aramis Ramirez short shrift this morning either -- he hit two homers, the first to the opposite field, the second a ball crunched way out onto the street, and the Cubs' recent surge is in no small part related to Aramis' surge to a .288 season batting average (.370/.408/.739 and an 1.147 OPS in 46 June at-bats). Michael Barrett also chimed in with a three-run homer. To show you how little sense this game makes at times, the Cubs beat the living daylights out of Travis Smith (1 IP, 5 ER), who came in on short notice after Josh Beckett left with another of his traditional blisters, one day after Smith threw an uneventful scoreless inning, but surrendered peaceably to Valerio de los Santos (two easy outs), who had a lifetime ERA of 5.19 vs. the Cubs from his days with the Brewers
Now, a show of hands, please. Before the season began, how many of you thought the Cubs would go into Yankee Stadium on Friday, June 17, with a better record than the Yankees?
I thought so. Me either, to be honest with you. But this is where we sit this morning, and despite this ridiculous thread on a Yankee fan site speculating that Gary Sheffield might become a Cub, I don't think Sheffield's going anywhere. After years of fleecing other teams with their supposed "prospects", no one wants to deal with the Yankees any more, and particularly not if they have to take on one of George Steinbrenner's outrageously large contracts.
Mike and I spent a good part of the evening conversing with a Chicago firefighter who we used to call "Corey Patterson's Agent", because when Patterson first came up he was singing Corey's praises. Not so last night -- he was just as realistic as the rest of us, and I still think Corey's best position would be in another uniform. We all think about this gingerly, because of the trade made forty-one years ago today, sending future Hall of Famer Lou Brock away in exchange for a couple of has-beens and never-weres.
To paraphrase a great presidential debate line, I knew Lou Brock (not personally, of course), and Corey Patterson's no Lou Brock.
Anyway, let's not get comfortable. The homestand is only 4-4, so a win today is imperative. I'm not looking only at the home record, like some do; more important is that the Cubs are 21-11 since bottoming out at 13-18, and 13-5 since Mark Prior's injury, which seems to have been a catalyst for the entire team.
Notes: it appears that Rich Hill will be recalled from Iowa soon, replacing John Koronka. He may start one day next week; Mitre will likely take the turn Sunday that would have been Koronka's (Mitre will be on regular rest). And does Nomar want to return to the Cubs next year? Apparently so -- he and Mia Hamm are building a big house in Winnetka.
Sign seen: "Mitre Is The Shitre!"
Howard and I looked at each other. Jeff had to explain it to us. New slang, right? Saying someone is "The Shit" means he's good?
In that case, that's pretty darn clever.