Ryan Dempster was just outstanding today, and he needed to be... this is exactly the sort of thing that winning teams do, have one guy pick the other up when the team is struggling, and Dempster threw 73 strikes out of 104 pitches and I thought Lou should have let him finish. The Cubs haven't had a complete game shutout since May 9, 2007, thrown by, of all people, Jason Marquis, and today would have been a fine day to give the bullpen a rest and let Dempster get his first CG shutout since July 3, 2001 -- long enough ago that it was against a team that no longer exists, the Expos.
I know, I complain too much, and shouldn't after an outstanding team performance today, a 9-0 shutout of the Astros. Virtually everyone contributed, if not offensively (three more hits from Ryan Theriot, two doubles from the slumping Kosuke Fukudome -- good to see -- a HR and two singles from Mike Fontenot, and I still can't figure out how he hits baseballs that far), then defensively (fine plays by Aramis Ramirez and Mark DeRosa in the field), and a quick and efficient inning from Carlos Marmol. That latter is just what the ballclub needed, too -- Marmol has been so bad the last month, and was so good before that, that seeing him back on track both in the All-Star Game and today is an exceptionally good sign.
Both the radio and TV broadcast teams referred to Alfonso Soriano's upcoming rehab stint, scheduled to begin tomorrow (in a 10 am game, played early in the day to minimize the desert heat) with the AZL Cubs and to continue, presumably, for Iowa at Tucson on Tuesday and Wednesday. But both broadcast teams also hinted -- just hinted, mind you -- that if everything goes well with Soriano in tomorrow's morning game, he could be activated as soon as tomorrow night.
Just sayin'. The club misses him, no matter how infuriating his strikeouts and misplays in the outfield can be at times. He came off the DL in May on fire, and did so also last September. The Cubs really do need him to do that again.
I thought Brandon Backe's little tantrum after he was called out on strikes in the fifth on an admittedly borderline call is going to work against him in the future. What umpire is going to ever give Backe a close call from now on?
Nitpick with the offense, and this is hard to do on a day when the Cubs had 13 hits and 9 runs: the Cubs were walkless for the second consecutive game. That's OK if they're hitting, but I'd like to see them resume their patient ways tomorrow.
Nitpick with the radio broadcast today: I happened to be out at first pitch time, and had the game on the radio in the car. If you didn't hear it, they missed the first play of the game entirely while running another in their endless series of commercials, and Ryan Theriot had by then led off the game with a fly to right. If missing the play wasn't bad enough, Pat then had to read some sort of ad that said that IF Theriot had gotten a hit, some sponsor would have given some sort of donation to some charity (you can see how much impact that made on me, because I can't remember either the name of the sponsor or the name of the charity).
The reason I was out early this afternoon was to see my son Mark's Park District game, a makeup from a rainout yesterday. I mention this because he's on the Astros this year. They lost 10-5 -- a harbinger of another Astros loss this afternoon.
As I was writing this, Troy Glaus hit a three-run homer for the Cardinals and they took a 5-3 lead over the woeful Padres. But I decided to wait to post, and amazingly enough, the Padres came back and tied it up in part because of a bad misplay by Rick Ankiel in CF, but then they lost anyway when Aaron Miles, of all people, hit a walkoff grand slam. Stupid Cardinals. And the Brewers, who acquired Ray Durham from the Giants this afternoon, are leading the Giants 2-0 early in their game. Durham has hit very well against the Cubs in his career, including in the seven Cubs/Giants games already this season, and with ten Cubs/Brewers games left, the Brewers clearly are trying to take advantage of that. Rickie Weeks, hitting .218, wasn't cutting it for Milwaukee and they're obviously looking at Durham as a short-term fix.
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So if those leads hold up, the division lead will remain at 2.5 games, and the Cubs need to go into Arizona and take care of business. Fascinating pitching matchup tomorrow: Rich Harden vs. Randy Johnson. Enjoy the rest of your evening. Onward to tomorrow.