I have only two bad things to say about today's impressive 7-0 Cubs shutout of the Dodgers, the first time the Dodgers have been shut out this year:
- Alfonso Soriano really does need a day off. He went 0-for-5 and looked bad doing it. Suggestion: start Jake Fox in LF tomorrow vs. the LHP Eric Milton.
- This would have been a perfect time to allow Jason Waddell to make his major league debut in the 9th inning... yet Lou let him sit in the bullpen.
Other than that -- the headline tells it all. We certainly have no complaints about one of the best games the Cubs have played all season. Ryan Dempster had outstanding stuff and command, allowing only three hits (and the first one was a freak, a double by Russell Martin in the 2nd that bounced off third base) and a walk and his seven scoreless innings dropped his season ERA by half a run, from 4.99 to 4.48. Angel Guzman -- quickly becoming a fine setup man -- threw a scoreless inning and fielded a comebacker neatly. Aaron Heilman -- um, not so much. He had little command, throwing only 12 strikes in 24 pitches, but did manage a double-play grounder to get out of a jam he had caused himself (and I'm sure Lou was not happy to have to get Carlos Marmol up and throwing in the bullpen) and another grounder to end it.
There were other heroes today. Little Babe Ruth (or, if you prefer, Wonder Hamster) Mike Fontenot doubled and tripled, and according to Lou in his postgame remarks, will now play third base every day, including, apparently, against lefthanders, since he started vs. the LHP Eric Stults today. Good sign: both of Fontenot's extra-base hits were off the lefty Stults, and both to almost the same spot off the right-center field ivy.
More heroes: Reed Johnson, laying down a perfect bunt that scored Ryan Theriot in the second inning, and later smashing a home run onto Waveland, despite the fact that the wind, which was howling out at first pitch, had shifted and was blowing off the lake by the time Reed's seventh-inning blast was caught on one bounce by Ballhawk Dave. Dave not only snagged the ball, but kept the drink cup that was in his hand intact.
That drink, had it been inside Wrigley Field instead of outside, would have been a tasty treat for the several dozen ring-billed gulls that swarmed the field just about then. Those birds must have been expecting that the 41,153 (the largest crowd of the year to date) people inside would have been gone by that time, as they usually are by 5 pm, and they could feast on the remains left behind. Quite a number of bleacher fans helped out by throwing them peanuts, and they didn't disperse until Milton Bradley ran out to right field for the top of the eighth and playfully ran among them, chasing them away. (I think they might have been afraid of him!) Bradley had a nice day at the plate, too, with three singles, bumping his average up to a season-high .223.
The Cubs also exhibited patience at the plate today, drawing seven walks, and might have scored more runs if not for two Dodger double plays, one of them coming with the bases loaded in the fifth inning after a run had already scored. This is the kind of offense that won many games for the 2008 Cubs; the ten hits included only one homer, Johnson's, and the game had long since been decided by then.
So there's a real shot at a very successful homestand and a series win tomorrow -- perhaps none of us would have given this team a chance at that two days ago -- and as I have said, there is still a long way (114 games) to go. Patience and optimism, please. This season is far from dead.