The last time before yesterday that the Cubs won a game 1-0, was in Pittsburgh on September 22, 2004.
Remember that one? Sammy Sosa made a diving catch in the eighth inning with the bases loaded to preserve the win.
That was just before the disastrous losing streak that began two days later in New York.
We don't have to rehash that; we've seen enough losing this year.
But last night's tense, well-played 1-0 win over the Astros could make you forget, even for just one night, that the Cubs are near the basement of the NL Central.
Sean Marshall threw his best game of the year, and for once it was the OTHER team stranding runners -- the Astros left twelve in all, including RISP in the first, third, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth innings. Ryan Dempster decided to make it exciting yet again, but this time, with one out and the tying run on third, he got the final two outs with relative ease (a popup and a force at second). I'm most happy for Dempster, because I still do believe he can be an effective major league closer -- if the Cubs would win enough to get him consistent save opportunities. Since June 10, a date on which the Cubs had defeated the Reds and Dempster got a save, the Cubs have played 23 games. Dempster has appeared in eight of those, with four save opportunities (two of which were blown). That's not nearly enough work for a modern closer, and a big part of that is the team simply not being in enough save situations FOR the closer.
Just four weeks ago, you'll remember, Houston rookie Chris Sampson handcuffed Cub bats all afternoon and beat Marshall by the same 1-0 score. It's nice to see them win by this score; yes, it'd be nice to see the Cubs score a few runs, but for once, the pitching staff did its job, and made a run manufactured by a Michael Barrett single and Todd Walker double hold up.
There's not much more to say about this game, other than it kept the Cubs' record of never being swept in Enron/Minute Maid Park intact.
So let's have some more discussion of Dusty Baker, shall we?
As I suspected, the brouhaha raised yesterday by Jim Hendry's comment that he would be "evaluating" everything and everyone at the All-Star break was way overdone. Columnists and writers rushed to say "Dusty Baker's gone!"
That is, as you might think, being "Master of the Obvious". Yesterday was "playing better", wasn't it? The way some writers write, you'd think the Cubs need a new manager every single day.
Chris DeLuca makes his case for Lou Piniella, the guy at the top of MY list of "Men I Do NOT Want To See Managing The Cubs":
"Thought to be"? By whom? Sometimes I think the MSM writers are sitting around talking like we do here at BCB, just spitting names out because they can. "Thought to be"? I do know that Gonzalez was not only considered, but interviewed, in 2002 before Baker was hired. He will be a good manager someday. So will Joey Cora. So will Gary Varsho, bench coach at Philadelphia, but, DeLuca also writes:
The Phillies have no chance at the playoffs this year. They're not going to hire a big name -- most likely, Varsho would get the job if Manuel is fired. And DeLuca is going way too far in saying Joe Torre might be "dismissed". I think Yankee management and ownership has far too much respect for Torre to "dismiss" him, even if the Yankees miss the playoffs this year. He'll either return, or leave on his own terms, not be fired, and I cannot imagine Piniella returning to New York at this stage of his career.
The rest of DeLuca's column speaks of Piniella's "fiery" temperament, as if that alone would make the Cubs, or any team, a winner. My friend Phil keeps talking to me about someone who would "kick ass", as if that instantly makes players play harder. It doesn't.
In any case, Piniella is the wrong guy for the Cubs. Remember this, as I've written before: the last two managerial hires by the Cubs have been "big names" -- Baker and Don Baylor. Baylor's tenure ended in rancor and the Cubs having to pay him for a year and a half after his firing. If Baker's ends the same way, I can see Hendry wanting to go in a different direction, especially after seeing managers like Mike Scioscia, Ken Macha, Ozzie Guillen, Eric Wedge and Ned Yost, all men with NO managerial experience prior to their hirings, having success (to varying degrees) with their ballclubs.
Fredi Gonzalez fits that bill. So does Joey Cora.
Finally, I'd like to see the hyperventilating stop. I do NOT see Hendry doing anything before the All-Star break -- or perhaps even during it. He's "evaluating". That's all.