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Better Baseball Through Chemistry: Cubs vs. Reds Preview, Saturday 9/12, 12:05 CT

Yesterday wasn't the first time a squirrel entertained fans at Wrigley Field by running across the field during a game. It also happened on October 6, 2001; that Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article simply notes its presence, but I remember the squirrel running rings around Roosevelt Brown in center field that afternoon. That didn't stop Brown from having his career day; he hit two homers and drove in seven runs in a 13-2 Cubs win over the Pirates that was also notable for Julian Tavarez taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

That game was also the last Cubs telecast directed by legendary WGN-TV director Arne Harris; he suffered a fatal heart attack while out to dinner that evening.

This morning I also want to talk about what a seemingly innocuous player move can do to help a team go on a long winning streak. I was watching the beginning of the Rockies/Padres game last night, and the Colorado announcers were going on and on and on about how Jason Giambi's presence had helped the chemistry in the clubhouse; Giambi had made friends quickly, brought some laughter, and also spent hours in the batting cage working on his swing, being ready for one pinch-hitting appearance.

Now, I admit that clubhouse chemistry is something that's hard to get and even harder to define. Sometimes a team that's said to have "good chemistry" is just a team that's winning. Does winning make for good chemistry, or does good chemistry breed winning? It's impossible to tell. But I do know that I'd rather have had Jason Giambi signed by the Cubs when the A's released him, than have had Micah Hoffpauir flailing away at pitches, even though Hoffpauir has done well since his return. In 14 plate appearances for Colorado, Giambi has three hits and six walks and has directly contributed to several of the wins during the Rockies' now 8-game winning streak, including a two-out walk in the Rox' ridiculous two-out, two-strike, ninth-inning come-from-behind 4-1 win over the Padres and their closer Heath Bell late last night.

Clubhouse chemistry in and of itself doesn't make for winning teams. Good baseball players do. But Jason Giambi has given the Rockies both, and the clubhouse presence DOES matter. There's also something to be said here about American League players coming to the National League -- look at what Matt Holliday has done since his return to the NL. The Cubs should have signed Giambi when he was released by the A's. But Jim Hendry rarely thinks outside the box like this. He needs to start doing so.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Randy Wells
Randy Wells
vs. Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto
10-8 W-L 9-10
2.84 ERA 4.39
84 SO 116
35 BB 49
12 HR 21
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

2009 - Randy Wells 10-8 22 22 0 0 0 0 139.1 135 51 44 12 35 84 2.84 1.22

2009 - Johnny Cueto 9-10 26 26 0 0 0 0 147.2 148 78 72 21 49 116 4.39 1.33

Johnny Cueto beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 22, throwing seven shutout innings. He's made two other starts vs. the Cubs this year, one in Cincinnati, one in Chicago, and allowed nine earned runs in 11.2 innings in those starts (6.94 ERA). Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Geovany Soto all have career BA over .300 vs. Cueto.

Randy Wells has started three times vs. the Reds this year and is 2-0 (and the Cubs won the other game, too). Ryan Hanigan (4-for-8) and Brandon Phillips (3-for-8) have hit him well, otherwise he's handled the rest of their hitters pretty well. With J.A. Happ injured and possibly on the shelf for a while, Wells has a shot at increasing his Rookie of the Year chances with strong performances for the rest of the year, likely four more starts.

TV today is cable-only, CSN Chicago and FSN Ohio. Reminder, that means you're blacked out if you're not in the local areas for those channels, due to Bud's Idiotic Saturday Blackout Rules (no EI before 6 pm CT). For other games today see the Mediacenter. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter.

Once again, just two overflow threads today -- 1:15 and 2:30 pm CDT. If there's a need for another one, please post as a FanShot.

Discuss amongst yourselves.