At least, that's what the Cubs are hoping after a poor 4-6 road trip left them three games out of both the division and wild card leads. The Cubs are 33-19 at home, the NL's second-best home winning percentage (behind only the Giants). But more importantly, they are 9-2 in their last 11 home games, dating back to the July 11 win over the Cardinals.
They are up against a tough Phillies team that has the best road record (32-19) in baseball. However, the Phillies went 3-4 on their last road trip and just got swept by the Marlins at home. I think all of this shows that you can't judge what's going on in the 2009 season by any past measures. It's been a very strange year; teams (Blue Jays) got off to great starts and flopped; teams got off to horrible starts (Rockies) and then went on tears. The Dodgers led the NL West by as many as 9 games; that lead is in some jeopardy. The Red Sox once led the AL East by 5 games; now they trail by 5.5.
The Cubs have 52 games remaining and it appears it will take 90 wins (approximately) to take the NL Central. Can the Cubs go 32-20? They'll have to get healthy, stay healthy and start actually hitting with runners on base to do so. There's more, too -- team leadership, something Paul Sullivan touches on in his article today:
Flash back to [Koyie] Hill's postgame assessment of the Cubs' lackluster 4-0 loss to the Reds Wednesday at Great American Ball Park. After saying the Cubs lacked intensity and were "outhustled," Hill was asked how that could possibly happen, considering what's at stake.
"I don't know," he said. "The baseball season is a grind. It's my belief that what we're trying to accomplish, and what every baseball team is trying to accomplish, is bigger than one person and I think everyone has to be accountable for what they bring to the ballpark every day."
I like Koyie Hill, both for his attitude and his performance in Geovany Soto's absence. Frankly, I think he deserves more playing time. We know he's not a hitter, but his handling of the pitching staff has been outstanding. I do not believe it is strictly a coincidence that the Cubs are 28-18 in games Hill has been the starting catcher.
|Today's Starting Pitchers|
|2009 - Rich Harden||7-7||20||19||0||0||0||0||104.0||95||57||51||20||45||124||4.41||1.35|
|2009 - J.A. Happ||8-2||26||14||2||2||0||0||115.0||92||35||35||12||37||86||2.74||1.12|
J.A. Happ, whose given names are "James Anthony" and who played his college ball at Northwestern, is the Phillies' version of Randy Wells -- only a bit better; he may be the leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year right now. He has never faced the Cubs; Aaron Miles went 0-for-3 against him last year when Miles was with the Cardinals (what a surprise, right?).
Rich Harden has started three times in his career vs. the Phillies, twice last year and on July 21 in Philadelphia, where he had a fine start (1 ER in 7 IP) but the Cubs lost in extra innings. His career ERA vs. Philly is 0.90. Current Phillies are hitting .162 (16-for-99) vs. Rich with only two HR (one by Raul Ibanez, one by Jimmy Rollins). Harden is 2-1, 1.80 in his last five starts with 41 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 innings -- much more like the Harden of 2008. We need that to continue.
Today's game is on CSN Chicago and Ch. 17 in Philadelphia. For other games today see the MLB.com Mediacenter.
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