Raise your hand if you still think there's something wrong with Geovany Soto.
Just as I thought -- no hands raised. Soto smashed two home runs last night. But look at this photo for people raising their hands for Soto for the right reason -- here's what our section looked like after the first one landed just a few rows below us (yes, that's us in the top row, me bundled against the cold in a blue coat, behind BCB reader ballstitch, in a burgundy Florida State sweatshirt, arm raised):
Soto's two HR and six RBI, both career highs, led a 17-hit, nine-walk attack (eight of the nine walks coming from the fifth through the eighth inning) and the Cubs demolished the Brewers 19-5, the most runs the Cubs have scored in almost exactly seven years, since May 5, 2001, when the Cubs took a garden-variety 4-1 lead into the seventh and then scored eight runs in consecutive innings and smashed the Dodgers 20-1.
Balls were really jumping out of the yard during batting practice, many sailing over our heads. So since my friend Sue showed up last night, and she likes to organize Home Run Derby in our section, we played. BCB reader ballstitch sat with us along with a friend of his, and the friend had Soto in the pool. He was in the men's room when Soto hit his second HR in the fourth, and when he returned we didn't say a word until he asked, "Did Soto hit another HR?" First, I said, "You have to be present to win", and then we all paid up.
It was that kind of fun night both for fans and players. The game was pretty much over in the first inning, when the Cubs sent ten men to the plate and scored six runs, smacking singles and doubles all over the place -- you don't have to hit only three-run homers to score tons of runs -- and Ryan Dempster, who had a single himself in that six-run first, threw well enough to win with that kind of offensive onslaught, although he labored in later innings, throwing 108 pitches in six innings and issuing five walks. His command and control are going to have to get better to continue to win, because obviously, the Cubs aren't going to score this many runs every day.
It's fun when they do, though, isn't it? Leading 13-5 in the 8th, the Cubs piled on Brewers reliever Derrick Turnbow, who had absolutely nothing last night -- he gave up four hits and four walks, and was charged with six runs, making his ERA an unsightly 15.63 (Jeff Suppan, the Brewer starter, allowed eight earned runs; his ERA, 3.48 at gametime, jumped to 5.19). Ryan Theriot got a RBI with a bases-loaded walk, and then Ronny Cedeno came up with the chance to hit his second grand slam of the month. (Read that again; would you have believed a phrase like that a year ago?)
He nearly got it, too; his bases-clearing double hit off the right-center field wall. It got so bad that Ned Yost, who had clearly wanted to save his 2,756 relievers for another day and wanted Turnbow to finish the inning, had to yank him after 43 (!) pitches and finish the inning with lefty Mitch Stetter.
Discordant note: Bob Howry, put in the game with a 13-3 lead to work out some of his early-season troubles, instead raised his own ERA to 8.10 by allowing a two-run HR to Brewers backup catcher Mike Rivera, who came into the game at 1B after Yost cleared his bench. Lou Piniella did so too, wisely giving Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome and Soto some rest and giving all five of his bench position players some playing time. In the 8th inning, pinch-hitter Mike Fontenot nearly got to bat a second time.
So the Cubs finish April with a 17-10 record; the 17 wins is the most ever for a Cub team in the month of April, though that record is a bit misleading -- teams play so many more games now in April than they did years ago. The previous record, 16, set in 1969, was posted in 23 games (16-7). The 27 games played since March 31 is exactly one-sixth of the season; match the 17-10 record, not an unreasonable thing to do, five more times and you will wind up 102-60. I'm not saying the Cubs will do this, or that it would be easy to do this, only that it is possible.
Derrek Lee tied the team record for HR in April, eight, originally set by Lee Walls in 1958. The 1958 Cubs played only 13 games in April -- and Walls hit his eight in an eight-day, seven-game stretch, as follows:
4/23: 1 4/24: 3 4/25: 0 4/26: 1 4/27: 0 4/28: off day 4/29: 2 4/30: 1
And for the kicker: all eight were hit on the road, in the new major league cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Walls hit 24 HR in 1958, never more than 11 in any other season, sort of the Tuffy Rhodes of his era.
Enjoy these -- they don't come around very often. We spotted "Friggin' Hot Dog Vendor" again last night and this time decided to buy some from him -- they were friggin' good. Also thanks to BCB reader cubsonWGN4ever, who stopped by to say hi last night. With Carlos Zambrano going this afternoon, the Cubs are in good position to win the series -- and then say goodbye to the Brewers for almost three months, because they won't meet them until the last week of July at Miller Park, and not again at Wrigley until mid-September. Today's game thread will be up at 11 am CDT.
More photos from last night: