With all the discussion of "Who should the Cubs acquire to fill in for Aramis Ramirez" focusing on Mark DeRosa, among others, lately, maybe the answer was right in front of the Cubs' faces the last two days.
This isn't a replay: Geoff Blum drove in the winning run in a 2-1 Astros win over the Cubs. Yes, he did it last night, too. This afternoon it took until the bottom of the 13th inning instead of the bottom of the ninth. Blum likes these sorts of heroics in Houston -- you may remember that he won game 3 of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox with a 14th inning home run, the only hit he had that entire postseason.
Blum isn't really a "Cub-killer", either, though it feels that way after the last two days; the definition of such is a guy who doesn't do much against anyone else, but when it comes to beating the Cubs, he has a knack for key hits or hits much better against the Cubs than the rest of the league. Blum, a .251/.311/.387 lifetime hitter coming into today's game, has a .229/.305/.345 mark vs. the Cubs in 223 career at-bats, not exactly the guy you'd expect to win two games in the way he did today. I'm only half-serious when I say "Get Blum", but if he were a Cub, at the very least he wouldn't be able to lose any games for the Cubs.
He couldn't be any worse than Aaron Miles, could he? Miles didn't start today but wound up 0-for-3 anyway, his average right at the Mendoza line at .200 now. It appears that the shoulder issue that he claims has been bothering him since spring training wasn't fixed by the two weeks on the DL. Frankly, I'd rather have him back on the DL and Jake Fox back. Or acquire Blum. Or anyone. Something has to jump-start this offense, because it has now ruined two outstanding starting pitching performances in a row. The Cubs entered today's game ranked fourth in the NL in team ERA at 3.91, and if the Reds, at 3.85, give up some runs to the Nats tonight, the Cubs could come home with an even higher ranking. The Cubs allowed Houston only five runs in 31 innings in the series, yet won only one of the three games. On the entire road trip -- eight games -- the Cubs allowed 21 runs, less than three per game, but went 4-4.
Ryan Dempster gave the Astros a run in the first inning and then nothing else; he didn't walk anyone and got his ERA under 4.00 (3.87) for the first time all year. Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg threw two shutout innings each and then Jose Ascanio chipped in with one before he was victimized by Blum.
The Brewers cooperated by losing today, so the Cubs remain only 2.5 games behind them, and still only one in the loss column. They will host the Twins tomorrow, and Minnesota lost again on the road to Oakland this afternoon to run their road record to 9-20.
Finally, I wanted to call everyone's attention to this si.com article which is a discussion between Bill James and Joe Posnanski on the value of walks. We all saw how the patience of Cub hitters last year helped lead to their highest run total in decades. Maybe they need to do the same thing again; more baserunners has to lead to more scoring. The Cubs drew five walks today (one intentional), yet their only run scored on a solo homer. Get baserunners... and eventually some of them will score.