Let's say it's June 2, and the Cubs have just lost to the Braves to fall to a season-low nine games under .500.
And I tell you that seven weeks later, the Cubs are going to start a lineup with:
- Mike Fontenot batting third;
- Jacque Jones playing CF and batting fifth, and
- Scott Moore starting at 1B.
And you'd have been dead wrong. That lineup -- and Fontenot had a big day today, with a walk, two hits and three runs scored -- anchored by Aramis Ramirez' single and three-run HR in the 8th that put it away, beat the Diamondbacks with ease this afternoon, 6-2, their seventh win in their last eight; their nineteenth in their last 25; and since that June 2 date, they are now 29-13, their best such run since July 4-August 18, 1989.
On another sun-kissed, pleasantly cool (70 degrees at game time) afternoon, Jason Marquis came out determined to disprove his critics; I was beginning to think they might have been right, after his last 12 starts produced an ERA in the 5's, but Marquis was solid today, making only one serious mistake -- a two-run HR by Chris Young which briefly gave the D'backs a 2-1 lead in the fifth. He allowed only four other hits, and one of them shouldn't have been, a pop-fly double in the first inning that Alfonso Soriano misjudged and let drop just under his glove as he made a diving effort. Apart from that, two other singles was all Arizona got, and Lou wanted to let Marquis finish the 8th inning, but with two out, he lost Jeff Davanon on a close 3-2 pitch (his only walk of the day), and at a pitch count of 108, Lou lifted him, to a warm ovation. Excellent work by Marquis today -- and truth be told, he did it without my help, as in my harried rush to get out of the house today, I left without the jersey on. Next time for sure, but the Cubs are now 4-0 in games Marquis has started since I acquired the jersey.
Carlos Marmol got an out to end the 8th on the first pitch he threw, which led us to believe Lou might leave him in to throw the 9th after Ramirez' HR took Bob Howry out of a save situation, but apparently Lou wanted to see how Howry did stretched out working two days in a row. It wasn't quite as efficient as yesterday, but an 18-pitch, 11-strike, 1-2-3 inning was just fine. Ryan Dempster, who was activated today with Sean Gallagher returning to Iowa, did do his usual throw-against-the-pads exercise in the 7th, but did not warm up, and we heard he wasn't going to be used, which raised the question: why activate him if he's not available?
Scott Moore, who started at 1B in place of the suspended Derrek Lee today, was 0-for-4, but made a couple of slick plays in the field. It's entirely possible that Moore, who doesn't really have a position on this club because the only positions he plays (first base and third base) are locked up long term, is being showcased for a possible trade.
Jacque Jones had two more hits today, raising his average to .248, and as Dave and I both agreed, he might actually play a better CF than he does RF, which is counter-intuitive, but perhaps true. If Jones is going to hit this well, there's no reason to deal him -- leave him out in CF every day except vs. LHP, when Angel Pagan can play. That is, of course, assuming Cliff Floyd is healthy enough to play RF, or if the Cubs can acquire Xavier Nady or another bat to play RF or perhaps to platoon with Floyd.
What more can you say about this team? They are playing with confidence every day -- even when they went behind 2-1 today, you had the sense that somehow, they'd come back and take the lead, and they did so in part due to shoddy Arizona defense; Davanon's throwing error after a Ramirez single allowed him to advance to second base, where Jones drove him in with the lead run.
Onward to tomorrow, and Go Giants tonight!
One last thing observed today: a crew from KTVK, channel 3 in Phoenix, arrived right after the gates opened to tape an opening segment for their pregame show. They said they'd be there for five minutes, only to be ejected by security. This is pretty ridiculous, isn't it? There was no one around, and they weren't in anyone's way, and doesn't security in the bleachers have better things to do? This wasn't a couple of kids with a video camera, it was a credentialed crew from the D'backs' broadcast outlet.
Just sayin'. Till tomorrow.