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Reality Check

Before Sunday and Monday, the last time the Cubs scored eleven runs in consecutive games was May 6 and May 7, 2004, both at Wrigley Field, as this year, against two different teams, first the Diamondbacks, then the Rockies.

Yes, they won both of those too, you cynic you.

The Cubs beat the Phillies 11-6 last night in Philadelphia, seriously damaging the Phillies' playoff hopes as they had done to the Reds over the weekend, and slowed down the Dodgers before that.

This makes very little sense coming from a team 27 games under .500.

Against the three first-place teams in the National League at this moment (the Mets, Cardinals and Dodgers) the Cubs went 18-13. That means at this writing, against all other teams they are 44-76, a .367 winning percentage that would translate to a 59-103 record over a full season. A big chunk of this is due to interleague play, where the Cubs went 4-11 this year, including 0-6 against the (apparently) playoff-bound Tigers and Twins, and the 0-7 mark they put up against another potentially playoff-bound team, the Padres.

And so, a win like this, especially in September (Dave keeps reminding me that to really see what a young player is like, throw out April and September and look at the intervening four months) doesn't mean that much.

And the reality check, of course, is the fact that after the Cubs built an 8-0 lead on the strength of two Aramis Ramirez three-run homers, Sean Marshall promptly coughed it up by giving up three hits, a walk, and a grand slam to, of all people, Jose Hernandez (sandwiched around a passed ball by Henry Blanco). Marshall's performances this year are maddening -- he'll throw lights-out for three or so innings, as he did last night, and then not be able to get anyone out, so much so that he had to be yanked and didn't even qualify for the win. In one of the rare circumstances where the official scorer could invoke MLB Rule 10.19 (c)(1):

(c)When the starting pitcher cannot be credited with the victory because of the provisions of 10.19(a) or (b) and more than one relief pitcher is used, the victory shall be awarded on the following basis:
(1) When, during the tenure of the starting pitcher, the winning team assumes the lead and maintains it to the finish of the game, credit the victory to the relief pitcher judged by the scorer to have been the most effective;
... the win was awarded to Michael Wuertz, who threw two shutout innings and kept the game in check while the Cubs extended the lead. The ninth inning was thrown by Ryan Dempster, who was taken out of a possible save opportunity by two top-of-the-ninth runs. Unlike Sunday, Dempster's velocity and arm angle seemed normal last night, and he dispatched the Phillies using only ten pitches (seven strikes). So is he hurt? Who the heck knows?

Ryan Theriot had another terrific game, with two singles, a double, a walk, a stolen base and three runs scored. Only 30 NL players rank above Theriot in steals now (he has ten, with only one CS, which ranks second on the Cubs ballclub), and every one of those 30 has appeared in at least fifty more games than Theriot has.

Reality check: does this mean that he can do this as a starting regular over a full season? No, it doesn't, but it does mean that he's at the very least earned the chance to do that in 2007, and that he could be a valuable utility player for the 2007 Cubs.

A tale of two very similar pitching lines; who belongs to both of these?

W L ERA GS IP H R ER BB SO 6 14 5.61 27 155.7 181 111 97 74 101 5 9 5.64 23 119.2 126 82 75 56 74

You probably know the answer to this already, but if you don't, the bottom one is what Marshall has put up this year. The one on the top was what a fellow named Greg Maddux put up in his rookie year with the Cubs in 1987.
(note, I removed the HR from the box above to get rid of the scrollbar on my browser, but Maddux had 17 HR allowed, Marshall 19)
Now, I am not suggesting Marshall will become as great as Maddux -- only that at this point in Maddux' rookie year, there wasn't any indication that he would become a Hall of Fame pitcher, either, although there were flashes of brilliance, and at the same time, he also had games in which he was absolutely pounded, such as this one. All I'm saying is that it is possible for Marshall to find the talent that he clearly has and make it consistent.
And that, along with Theriot, Matt Murton and others, does give me hope that the reality of 2007 will be better than the reality of 2006 (it could hardly be worse, of course). For the naysayers, you apparently won't get your wish -- the Cubs need win only one of their remaining 11 games to avoid the 100-loss mark which you insist is the only way management will be embarrassed enough to fix things.
100 losses isn't needed. They have to know. In the meantime, watching this team play this way, far too-little-too-late, is still enjoyable.