For all of you naysayers who said Derrek Lee should have sat out till after the All-Star break, I, for one, am glad he didn't.
Lee did something he rarely did as a Marlin in what was then known as Pro Player (now "Dolphin") Stadium -- he homered, and Kerry Wood threw into the eighth inning (with only 104 pitches!) and the Cubs won their second in a row over the Marlins, 8-2, with the game blown open with a four-run ninth.
That was, in part, triggered by the very first pitch of Adam Greenberg's major league career -- it hit him in the head, knocking his helmet off and pushing him to the ground for a couple of minutes. Greenberg did get up and walked off under his own power, though assisted by the trainers.
Then, almost ludicrously, Carlos Zambrano was sent out to run for him -- since the bench had already been used with Jose Macias and Todd Hollandsworth already being in the game. This again points out the uselessness of having twelve pitchers on the staff, and I hope this is addressed during the All-Star break. With the starting staff now all healthy and pitching deep into games, there really is no need to have extra bodies in the bullpen who won't be used.
It was a hot sunny day in Chicago today, temperatures approaching 90 and not a cloud in the sky, which makes it too bad that the game wasn't played here instead of on the fringes of Hurricane Dennis. Although it appeared that the rain bands raking south Florida would postpone tonight's game, the rain edged just north and west of the Miami area, and the only effects on the game were some swirling winds which made popups and fly balls an adventure, and when Greenberg lay on the ground, you could see his dark long curly hair flapping around in the breeze.
Today, Matt Murton was 0-for-2 and was replaced by Todd Hollandsworth halfway through the game, but that didn't matter -- there were other heroes, including Lee, who hit his 26th homer just inside the LF foul pole; Todd Walker, who had three hits including a two-run homer which put the Cubs ahead to stay, and an RBI double in the 9th which helped to ice the game. Michael Barrett drew three (!) walks (the team had five -- take that, Mr. Hackmaster Manager!), singled and drove in two runs.
In fact, these five walks are key to the Cubs' future. Scott Olsen, the Crystal Lake product who says he was among the mob on Waveland Avenue during NLCS game 6 in 2003, is a soft-tossing lefty who was consistently out of the strike zone. Instead of hacking away, the Cubs made him throw strikes. When he didn't, they drew walks. When he did, they hit him hard.
Isn't this the way it's supposed to be done? Why is this such a difficult concept?
Ryan Dempster had been warming up to close the game, but with the four-run ninth, Roberto Novoa drew the game-finishing assignment and retired the Marlins without incident.
As I said yesterday, the sudden demotions of Corey Patterson and Jason Dubois (and, ironically, since they both need major at-bats, they won't play till July 14 -- the Iowa series at New Orleans was postponed due to the approaching hurricane, and the PCL also has an all-star break this upcoming week) seem to have been an extreme wake-up call for the ballclub. This was mentioned on the telecast by Bob Brenly -- Brenly said that the Cubs were playing with no energy at all in Atlanta, and you could feel the energy all through the first two games of the series.
As for the pitching staff, the story was Wood today. He had good stuff -- real good stuff. The TV speed pitch box had him hitting 98 and 99 MPH in the first few innings, though Len and Bob said the speed meter at the stadium was one or two notches below that. Either way, that's serious juice and it wasn't only that -- Wood's pitches seemed to have real movement on them and he also kept the "new" mechanics that have him not throwing across his body quite so much. This not only will help prevent future injury, but it will also keep his pitches nearer the strike zone, which ought to cut down on his walks -- it did so today as he walked only one.
Greg Maddux goes tomorrow against Al Leiter, who has been a Cub-killer most of his career, but who now at age-nearly-40 has been absolutely awful this year. A sweep would set the tone for a good second half. Keep the faith.