Since I have been critical of Milton Bradley many times on this site, let me praise him this morning.
Bradley homered and singled and raised his batting average (.269) and OPS (.823) to season highs and helped lead the Cubs to a 4-1 win over the Astros on another chilly night at Wrigley Field. The announced crowd of 36,332 probably included 10,000 no-shows, and the season average dipped under 40,000 for the first time in a couple of months (now 39,982, if the Cubs maintain that average for the 16 remaining home games -- and they probably won't -- they'll draw about 100,000 fewer than they did in 2008).
Anyway, nice work, Milton -- and he continues his hot hitting, now 14-for-30 (.467) with three homers since the Cubs came home on August 25. He's also drawn five walks and scored 11 runs in the eight games so far on this homestand. Keep up the good work!
The other good story from last night's game belongs to Randy Wells, and in fact, that's the feel-good story for the entire season. I don't think a single one of us would have predicted, back in March, that Wells would start 21 games for the major league Cubs in 2009, much less win 10, rank eighth in the NL in ERA (2.90), or become a solid Rookie of the Year candidate (he likely won't win, as J.A. Happ of the Phillies has been better). Wells threw 6.2 solid innings, scattering seven hits -- all singles -- and allowed only an unearned run which wouldn't have scored at all if Jeff Baker had managed to hang on to Koyie Hill's throw trying to catch Kaz Matsui stealing in the seventh inning. It's too bad he can't face the Astros again, because he's thrown 20.2 innings against them, given them 17 hits -- all singles -- and just the one unearned run from last night.
Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano scored the other two runs last night; Lee should have had two doubles, but the first of the two times he reached base -- on a fly ball that Hunter Pence had go in and out of his glove -- was initially ruled a double, then changed to an error.
And, credit also to the bullpen, which, after starting the year very shaky, has suddenly allowed nothing at all the last few days. John Grabow, Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol allowed no runs and just a single walk in 2.1 innings. Marmol, in particular, looked like the lights-out Marmol of old. His mechanics seemed far better, and after a leadoff single to Pence, he struck out the side to end the game.
With 32 games remaining in the season, the Cubs' task to overtake four teams for the wild card is still daunting. They still trail the Rockies by six (five in the loss column), but are creeping up on moving ahead of one of those teams, the Marlins; with Florida's loss to the Braves last night, the Cubs are only one game behind the Marlins (and even with them in the loss column).
Just keep winning. That's all we can ask. Today's game preview will post at 11:30 am CDT.