I don't normally comment on the Major League Cubs figuring it's Al's job, but since he's traveling, I thought I'd start out with a short comment that I'm pretty confident Al would agree with.
The Cubs have not been a good team so far this season. Most of the year, they've simply been treading water. They've had moments where they've looked like the world-beaters of the past two seasons, but mostly they've been pedestrian. Not bad, mind you. Cub fans know a bad team when they see it. They just don't look like a playoff team.
But here we are past the All-Star Break, and the Cubs are only a game out of first and a game up on the first-place Cardinals in the loss column. Speaking of the Cardinals, for the first half of this decade, they were a pretty dominating team, making the playoffs every season from 2000 to 2005 except for a minor blip in 2003 which we all remember. But during that time, they never won the World Series, despite some pretty amazing teams led by either Mark McGwire or Albert Pujols.
Yet when 2006 rolled around, the Cardinals were clearly down. Albert Pujols by himself gave the team an offense that was a bit above average, but there were major holes in the lineup. The pitching staff was decidedly mediocre. But the rest of the division was down, too, and the Cards just sneaked past the Astros the final weekend of the season to crawl into the playoffs. We all know that Cardinal team, which was easily the worst Cardinals playoff team of the decade, won the World Series.
Once you make the playoffs, anything can happen, as we found out the bad way over the past two seasons. I'm not saying that this team is going to win it all. I'm just saying that if you think a team that is only a game back in July and a game up in the loss column can't win it all, you're dead wrong.
The I-Cubs lost to the Omaha Royals, 9-6.
Jose Ascanio had a terrible start tonight, not making it out of the second inning. Ascanio gave up six runs, five of which were earned, in only 1.2 innings. He was tagged for six hits and failed to strike anyone out. He walked one batter and hit one too. He also had a wild pitch. This awful outing did only raise Ascanio's ERA to 2.91 though.
John Gaub threw an inning of scoreless relief and Blake Parker had two shutout innings out of the pen. I mention them because they're both having good seasons that have been mostly under the radar here.
Center fielder Sam Fuld returned to Iowa and hit his first home run of the season. Fuld was 2 for 4 with a walk and two RBI from the home run.
First baseman Matt Craig and DH Jason Dubois had identical lines of 2 for 4 with a double an a run scored. Shortstop Darwin Barney was 2 for 4 with a run scored.
Shortstop Aaron Miles was 1 for 5.
The Smokies were kicked off the reservation by the Mississippi Braves, 8-5.
David Patton made a rehab start and it didn't go very well either. Patton pitched two innings and gave up three runs on a three-run home run in the second inning. Patton allowed two hits and walked one. He also struck out one.
First baseman Blake Lalli ws 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI. Second baseman Tony Thomas was 2 for 3 with an RBI sac fly.
Shortstop Jonathan Mota was 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored. Center fielder James Adduci was 2 for 4 with a walk and an RBI. Third baseman Marquez Smith was 2 for 5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored.
Catcher Welington Castillo was 1 for 3 with a solo home run, his eighth of the season.
Rafael Dolis started and allowed three runs on four hits over four innings. Dolis walked three and struck out two.
Joe Simokaitis had an ERA of 8.68 in 9.1 innings of relief in Boise. So naturally the correct move is to promote him all the way to Daytona. He responded to the promotion with two shutout innings of relief. He allowed two hits and he hit a batter. He didn't strike anyone out.
Luke Sommer pitched the 13th inning and took the loss, allowing two runs on three hits.
Left fielder Josh Harrison went 2 for 6 with four stolen bases. Center fielder Tony Campana went 3 for 7 with a run scored and two stolen bases. Shortstop Starlin Castro had the final two of the Cubs eight steals tonight. Castro was 2 for 5 with a double and two walks.
The Chiefs were pounded by the Lansing Lugnuts, 6-2.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx got his first start tonight, but it didn't go well as he picked up his first loss. ABD gave up five runs on six hits, inculding two home runs, over five plus innings. One of the runs was unearned. The positive sign was that he struck out four and didn't walk anyone.
Right fielder Andrew Rundle hit his second home run, a two-run shot in the sixth inning. Rundle was 1 for 3.
The Hawks were outslugged by the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, 10-8.
Robert Hernandez started tonight and continued tonight's theme of bad starts with three runs over 5.1 innings. Actually, tonight that's not so bad. He gave up four hits and issued three walks. Hernandez struck out five. One of Hernandez's runs was unearned.
Corey Martin allowed five runs, three of which were earned, in only one inning to take the loss.
Second baseman Logan Watkins was 2 for 3 with a walk. He scored three times and had one RBI.
First baseman Justin Bour was 2 for 4 with a walk and a double. He had two RBI. Left fielder Jose Valdez was 2 for 3.
Center fielder Brett Jackson was 1 for 3 with a run scored and two more walks. He struck out once.
Were the only winner tonight, shutting out the Athletics, 7-0.