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Nothing's Ever Easy, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Cardinals, Sunday 9/16, 1:15 CT

It's an old baseball saw: "Doubleheaders tend to split". And it's true -- I don't have stats handy, but the vast majority of doubleheaders DO split, and that goes for conventional DH (ones played with the old-fashioned 20 or 25 minutes in between) as well as the new-fashioned ones that force players, employees and broadcasters to spend twelve or thirteen hours at the ballpark. (They all hate it, from what I hear.)

And that's what we got yesterday, a split, winning 3-2 in game one, losing 4-3 in game two, and in the process losing half a game off the division lead, since the Brewers beat the Reds 5-3.

The two games were, in fact, somewhat similar -- a two-run Alfonso Soriano HR in each one, the Cubs trailing late in each one, good bullpen work in each one... it's just that I kept sitting there, wishing, hoping, for the elusive comeback in game two that never happened.

Where do I start? Soriano's power stroke came back not a moment too soon, and now we know why it vanished earlier:

Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs' $136 million left fielder, finally revealed Thursday the reason for his struggles at the plate since his monster June: He was playing hurt and didn't tell the team trainers.

Soriano, the National League Player of the Month for June, followed that by hitting just .236 with three homers in July. He tore his quadriceps in early August and went on the disabled list for most of the month.

Until the quad injury, he was dealing with pain in both wrists -- but in particular the left one, near the hamate bone -- that developed in early July. He quietly began heavily taping both wrists before each game for about a month to help him cope.

But the three weeks on the disabled list allowed the wrist pain to subside enough that when he came back 2½ weeks ago, he no longer taped.

And his power came back. He had seven home runs in 16 games since his return entering play Friday night, and said it's because his wrists feel better and stronger.

And now it's nine home runs in 18 games since he came back -- twenty-seven in all -- and if he can keep this up over the last thirteen games, not only will he wind up in the mid-thirties in HR, near his career norms, but those HR ought to help the Cubs to victories, as they did in game one. Props also in game one to Ted Lilly, who made one bad pitch (the one that Jim Edmonds smacked for a two-run double, and yes, I think both runs would have scored even if Daryle Ward or any other outfielder had made a better play than Ward did on the ball), Kerry Wood, who threw an efficient scoreless inning to record his first victory as a relief pitcher, and Ryan Dempster (where are you now, Dempster-bashers?), who had an easy 16-pitch, 11-strike inning for his 26th save.

Game two was just frustrating, especially with going out to a 3-0 lead, mainly courtesy of Soriano's 27th HR of the year (with Sean Marshall on base after a rare base hit). I don't think any of you really want to rehash the carnage of St. Louis' four-run third inning off Marshall. A lot of the damage wasn't Marshall's fault -- the throwing error by Jason Kendall helped make two of the four runs unearned -- but after seventy pitches in less than three innings, I guess Lou figured he had to get him out of there.

Which is where the bullpen took over, and if they keep throwing like this the rest of the year, the Cubs are in really, really good shape. Props to Michael Wuertz (even though he gave up the hit that allowed the fourth run to score, and I was a bit surprised to not see Sean Gallagher in that spot, considering it was only the third inning), Will Ohman, Kevin Hart, Kerry Wood and Scott Eyre combined for 5.1 innings, two hits, a walk and five strikeouts, allowing no further runs, and keeping the game close in what proved to be a fruitless attempt to help the Cubs get the lead back.

What more can be said? The Cardinals had lost nine in a row, including the first game, and losing streaks that long do tend to get snapped, eventually. But a Cub win today will have accomplished what all of us hoped would be a good result coming out of this series -- three out of four -- and would match what the Cubs did to the Cardinals over a week's period in 2003 (four out of five, including the makeup game last Monday at Wrigley Field). More on today below; first a quick review of "The Brave One", Jodie Foster's new film. Basic plot summary: she plays a radio talk show host ("Erika Bain") who goes around New York with a microphone, recording "the sounds of the city", then talks about them on what appears to be a NPR-type station. She's out walking her dog in Central Park with her fiance, when they are attacked; the fiance is murdered and Erika is badly wounded. (And no, that's not a spoiler.

The rest of the film is an examination of what happens to a person when they are attacked in this way, and how someone like that can be driven to do horrific things, things they would never have thought of doing before. It's not just a shoot-em-up, although there's enough of that; the shootings, which in any other movie might leave you just horrified, make you think instead. Terrence Howard, who was so good in "Crash", plays a police detective investigating a string of what appear to be random shootings, and who befriends Foster's Erika character. Playing a minor role is 18-year-old Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, and a NYC TV reporter is played by actual NYC cable news reporter Dean Meminger, and if that name sounds familiar, it should: his father, also named Dean, nicknamed "The Dream", played six years for the NY Knicks in the 1970's, including on their 1973 NBA championship team.

Anyway, this wasn't the greatest movie ever made, but it makes you think. I like films like that.


Today's Starting Pitchers
Jason Marquis
J. Marquis
vs. Mark Mulder
M. Mulder
11-8 W-L 0-2
4.17 ERA 12.38
98 SO 3
69 BB 4
22 HR 3
vs. StL -- vs. Cubs
Well, isn't this appropriate. Jason Marquis, maligned former Cardinal, the guy who was so bad last year he got left off their postseason roster, is the guy who has to beat his old team to put his new team closer to the postseason this year. Marquis is 2-1 vs. the Cardinals this season, though with a 4.34 ERA (not too far from his season ERA of 4.17). After a tough stretch, Marquis is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his last three starts, walking only two and striking out ten in 18.2 IP.

Mark Mulder is a work in progress, obviously -- he has gotten pounded in both of his starts since returning from offseason shoulder surgery. The last time he faced the Cubs was June 6, 2006 in St. Louis -- that team hit him hard, too, including a grand slam from Aramis Ramirez, who's one of only three position players who played in that game (Matt Murton and Jacque Jones the others) who's even still on the ballclub. Overall Mulder is 2-3, 4.22 vs. the Cubs in six career starts; Murton, for one, has hit him well (6-for-15). So has Jones -- Mulder's one of the few lefties he hits well (8-for-21, four doubles, .381/.458/.571). And Derrek Lee pounds him -- .733/.765/.933 (11-for-15, a HR; Lee was out with the broken wrist when the Cubs faced Mulder last year). It's time to improve on the Cubs' poor 15-22 record vs. left-handed starters.

Today's game is on WGN. It's not in the digital cable EI list, but sometimes these games show up on satellite anyway. Also check the Mediacenter. Gameday (2007 version) Gameday (2006 version) Gameday for the Brewers/Reds game (1:05 CT starting time)

Discuss amongst yourselves.