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Let Me Get This Straight

The Cubs played an 18-inning game last night, using the entire roster including having ten pitchers pitch.

Thus, they had no available starter for this afternoon's game, to start only about twelve hours after last night's ended.

So they call on a 26-year-old guy pitching for Iowa, who wasn't even on the 40-man roster, who had NEVER been mentioned as among the top Cub prospects, and who just by coincidence happened to be only about 160 miles from Houston, in Round Rock, Texas. (Can you imagine what the Cubs might have done had Iowa been, say, playing in Tacoma, 2450 miles away?) They chartered a limousine to drive this young pitcher to Houston, slapped his name (without the apostrophe that usually goes with "O'MALLEY") on his back, gave him the number 48 which has been worn by fine Cub pitchers of the past like Rick Reuschel and Joe Borowski, and sent him out to face major league hitters.

And he throws eight shutout innings -- did it quickly and efficiently (game time 2:18), something that had only been done eight other times by ANY Cub pitcher this year, and the Cubs beat the Astros 1-0, on the strength of a Michael Barrett HR, sweeping the series, finishing a winning road trip, and equalling the longest winning streak of the season at four.

If I'd have told you 24 hours ago this was all going to happen, you'd have accused me of "drinking the Kool-Aid too many times".

But that's exactly what happened, and this game was a mirror image of this June 7 game in Houston, when the Astros called on a minor league lifer to make his first major league start, and they won 1-0 -- on the strength of a home run by their starting catcher.

I swear, you can't make this stuff up. It's yet another example of Mike's saying: "Anyone tells you they've got this game figured out, laugh in their face!"

Now, this doesn't mean that Ryan O'Malley is going to become a great, or even good, major league pitcher. He doesn't throw very hard, and I suspect his stuff might get lit up the second time around the league. But he did seem to have pretty good mound presence, and worked out of jams he caused by walking six (this isn't any different from any other Cub pitcher this year, anyway), and he may have earned another start or three -- even if he has to wait till September for another chance.

Some of you in the comments in the game thread were comparing O'Malley's performance to that of Jeff Pico, who splashed onto the major league scene on May 31, 1988 by throwing a four-hit shutout against the Reds at Wrigley Field, with NO walks. Pico was, at the time, considered a mid-level prospect. He did throw one more shutout that year against a really bad Braves team that lost 106 games, but never fulfilled his promise. He was only 22 years old -- he turned 40 only this year -- and just like so many Cub prospects, turned into a suspect, out of baseball at 24.

The last two days have been probably the brightest spots in this dismal season, or at least the brightest since the sweep of the Cardinals at Wrigley Field in April provided some false promise early this year. These games don't make up for all the bad play of May and June, but they do show this team has some spark, some fire, especially during the 18-inning affair last night. They'll come home to play the Cardinals on Friday knowing they haven't lost to St. Louis at home all year, and are 10-3 against them all told.

Will Ryan O'Malley become someone who comes out of nowhere to be an effective major league pitcher? Or will he be, in twenty years, the answer to a trivia question? Given what we know about him, the latter seems more likely. But in the word (yes, "word") of former pitcher Joaquin Andujar ... "youneverknow".

The Cubs are now 35-27 against NL Central teams, and 17-41 against everyone else. Other than the Mets (35-22 vs. the NL East), Athletics (26-14 vs. the AL West, most of that because they are 11-0 vs. the Mariners), and Tigers (36-19 vs. the AL Central), no one else has a better record within their own division than the Cubs.

That's very, very odd. Part of that is, of course, that the entire NL is quite mediocre this season. Throw out the records of the Mets and Pirates, the top and bottom teams, and the entire rest of the league -- 14 teams -- is separated by only twelve games. That's very, very unusual, particularly for this late in the season.

So, onward. Savor this win -- I can assure you that Ryan O'Malley and the Cubs are doing so, on what will undoubtedly be a very, very happy flight home tonight. Tip o' the cap to you, young Mr. O'Malley. You done good.