Over .500 after half the schedule for the first time in three years (OK, so it's not very much over, just over at 41-40), the Cubs looked like a team on a mission as they dispatched the Nationals easily 7-2 last night.
This is what good teams must do -- take care of business when they play teams that are clearly inferior to them. There's not a lot to say specifically about the game that you likely don't already know, so I'm going to commend you to the diaries by NittanyCub and Chris, who were at the game and can give you more flavor of what it felt like, and I'm going to sing the praises of Mark DeRosa once again.
Here's a guy who many of you flamed Jim Hendry for signing, and he's now hitting .286/.363/.452, just about what he hit last year as a first-time regular last year in Texas; he's on pace to drive in 92 runs (currently second on the team), and last night played his fourth position in the last week, and had two more hits and three RBI, and made a pretty slick snag of a screaming line drive (he's played five of them all told this year, including a handful of games at 1B, after being promised he'd be the regular second baseman upon signing). He never says a word about this, nor about being shuttled anywhere from 2nd to 7th in the batting order, and often, players who play several positions in the field are so focused on getting the fielding right that their offense suffers. Not so with DeRosa, who's hitting .319/.367/.422 since May 27, and I don't think it's coincidental that the Cubs have played some of their best baseball since then. He'll be playing third base, most likely, tonight, as Lou is likely going to rest Aramis Ramirez so he can play in tomorrow's day game.
Incidentally, although DeRosa hasn't played exclusively 2B this year, he has played 44 games there, and if he had been playing 2B all year, his 46 RBI would rank tied for third among all major league 2B (behind only Chase Utley and Dan Uggla).
And, he played under Bobby Cox in Atlanta and has lifetime numbers of .368/.429/.632 in 19 postseason at-bats.
In addition to Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly (who threw a really nice game last night, winning his 7th of the year), Mark DeRosa might be the best of all Hendry's signings. Bitch all you want, but Hendry, I think, did an excellent job of signing free agents to fill Cub needs last offseason. That three-year, $13 million deal doesn't look so expensive now, does it?
Finally, it's been driving me nuts, ever since a couple of you mentioned to me that you thought new Cubs reliever Billy Petrick looked like Kerry Wood. I didn't think so but I knew he reminded me of someone. And last night, watching Petrick throw (and he threw a really nice inning), I figured it out. He's a thinner version of Bobby Jenks. No, really. Check out these links:
Now, Jenks is about to eat himself out of baseball. Petrick's a tall dude (looks even taller when he wears his socks up as he did last night), and if he stays in shape and keeps throwing the way he has so far -- maybe the Cubs have a bullpen find.