The Cubs beat the Astros 3-2 this afternoon on another gorgeous, sunny early-April day, evening their season record at 3-3.
So what have we learned so far this year? Let's examine not only what's happened with the Cubs, but elsewhere in baseball:
- Kosuke Fukudome is as advertised. Works counts. Does good situational hitting. Plays right field like it belongs to him (well, except for overrunning Brandon Backe's pop fly today -- Backe wound up with a gift double).
- It's nice to see Carlos Zambrano get off to a good start instead of the scuffles he's had the last three years. Especially notable today: no walks and 72 strikes thrown in 106 pitches. Miguel Tejada homered off him. OK, that's going to happen at times. (Plus, the strike zone was really strange today.)
- Derrek Lee: proof that hitting .194 in spring training means exactly zero. D-Lee has been pounding the ball all week; even his outs are hard-hit and his HR today nearly left the premises.
- Alfonso Soriano still looks lost, despite the home run, his first of the season (that puts him 13 games ahead of last year, when he didn't hit his first until his 19th game, and after missing a week with an injury). The ball clanged off the bottom of the railing, just inside the LF basket in our section. It may have been helped a bit by the crosswind. We were surprised that Lou didn't move Reed Johnson to LF when he put Felix Pie in CF for defense in the 8th inning. (Could he have been stroking Soriano's ego?)
- Kerry Wood has been rock-solid since he began pitching in actual closing situations. He has saved all three Cub wins and in those three appearances has faced ten batters, allowed one hit and no walks, and struck out three, including Tejada on a nasty breaking ball (a splitter?) to end today's game.
- The Orioles are 4-1. Obviously, they're the best team in baseball.
- The Giants are 1-5. Obviously, they're the worst team in baseball. (Oh, wait. Yes, they are.)
- So much for the Mets going 34-0 in games Johan Santana starts, as all the MSM columnists were bleating when they signed him. Gee, you mean he could lose some games?
- Watch out for the Blue Jays. Seriously. They just swept the Red Sox, and if they get consistent starting pitching, they will contend.
- What's with the blue jerseys again? I guess with John McDonough gone (he was the one who issued the pinstripes-only at home edict last year, one I applauded), they've given the starting pitchers the choice again. Sorry, I'm a uniform traditionalist: white or pinstripes at home, gray on the road. The Astros didn't wear road grays at all during this series. And now, I'm afraid we'll have to look at those awful red Pirates sleeveless abominations sometime this week.
Bottom line, everyone: things are good. The Cubs will be just fine. With a break or two this week, they could have been 5-1 on the homestand despite having Soriano play poorly and getting good starting pitching out of only three pitchers (Z, Rich Hill and Ryan Dempster). Today's crowd of 40,929 gives the Cubs an average after six games of 39,663; virtually no one left the close game, wanting to see Wood close it out. I was also pleased to see Carlos Marmol have a solid inning in relief, finally putting the ball over the plate (12 strikes in 19 pitches).
Finally, today produced one of the nicer giveaways of recent years, an Ernie Banks plaque, similar (obviously, not identical in wording) to his Hall of Fame plaque:
Yes, I know. Too many teeth showing. Till tomorrow.