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Seven, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Pirates, Sunday 7/8, 12:35 CT

For a time during last night's 7-1 Cubs win over the Pirates, it seemed as if the sevens would be perfectly aligned on 07/07/07; at one point the Cubs were leading 7-0 and had 7 men left on base.

Still, there were plenty of sevens even after that. They wound up with 14 hits (2x7); Ted Lilly threw 7 (OK, OK, 7.1) solid innings, winning his eighth game and driving in his sixth career run (there! that adds up to 14, 2x7 again); and Mark DeRosa, uniform #7, had two hits and drove in a run. If Lou Piniella had any sense of poetry, he'd have batted DeRosa seventh last night (DeRosa hit sixth, but has hit seventh at times this year). (And note the timestamp of this post: 7:27 am CT.)

It's nice to be able to have this sort of fun, isn't it? All cylinders clicked in last night's game; the Cubs scored, in fine Chicago tradition, early (two in the first inning) and often, and the fourteen hits included only one extra-base hit (a double by Jacque Jones, of all people -- the starting lineup seemed a little freaky at first, with Jones in CF and Daryle Ward in RF, but with the early lead Lou was able to get Ward out early, and also give Aramis Ramirez a couple of innings off). Although the Cubs haven't had a homerless streak this long since 1999 (and you know how bad that team was), this doesn't concern me in the least as long as the team is winning. Other important contributors last night were Alfonso Soriano (three hits and a SB) and Ryan Theriot (three hits, and he's suddenly hot again, with a 7-game hitting streak in which he's 12-for-25). Even the ESPN Baseball Tonight crew has noticed him, and picked up his "The Riot" nickname.

Before we move on to this afternoon's final game before the All-Star break, I have just one more thing to say about last night: Carlos Marmol is turning into an absolutely filthy, nasty relief pitcher. Many of us were saying this was possible last year, when he was struggling through 13 starts, never seeming to have the stamina to last more than three or four innings. But he showed the great stuff he's showing now even then -- he just never could sustain it, and would start walking people (in 2006, he walked 59 in 77.1 innings, a frighteningly bad ratio). Even with his one walk last night, he's walked only 10 in 28 innings, struck out 40, has a 0.96 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, and has an absolutely filthy slider which you can see demonstrated in the photo essay in Chris' BCB diary -- nice pics!

I see closing in Carlos' future. Onward.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
C. Zambrano
vs. Shane Youman
S. Youman
10-6 W-L 1-0
4.04 ERA 3.00
102 SO 2
51 BB 1
16 HR 1
vs. Pit -- vs. Cubs
When the Cubs left on this important road trip, I figured they had to go 5-2 to make a statement, to keep the pace in the NL Central, and to perhaps move up in the wild-card race (where they've sneaked to within three games of the currently-leading Dodgers). Win today, and that goal will have been achieved.

Z needs to step up his game today. That sounds odd, considering he's 5-1, 1.42 in his last six starts, but the Pirates have been a nemesis to him; he's 7-5, 4.22 lifetime against them, including this game at Wrigley Field on May 10 where he gave them three runs in the first inning. Keep him away from Jason Bay, who is .367/.457/.900 lifetime in 30 AB, with 4 doubles and 4 HR.

And, Z is tied with four other pitchers (John Maine, Brad Penny, Cole Hamels and Ben Sheets) for the NL lead in wins with ten. None of those four will throw today, so if Z wins, he'll be the NL leader in wins at the All-Star break. For whatever that's worth.

Shane Youman beat the Brewers last Tuesday, has never faced the Cubs, and is no relation to former major league pitcher Floyd Youmans.

It's cable-only again today, so if you're outside Chicago or Pittsburgh, check EI or the Mediacenter. Gameday (2007 version) Gameday (2006 version)

Discuss amongst yourselves.