Didn't we see this game on Monday?
The Cubs started off Tuesday's game in very similar fashion to Monday's, scoring three runs in the first inning on their way to a 7-2 win over the Brewers, their third win in a row. After then matching the three-spot with another one in the second inning to basically blow the game open early, the Cubs got yet another homer from Derrek Lee in the fourth.
D-Lee's 35th HR of the year, along with a pair of doubles, gave him a career-high 109 RBI with 12 games to go. He now ranks fourth in the NL (and will likely go no higher, as third place is inhabited by Ryan Howard with 126), as well as seventh in the league in home runs. His .593 SLG is second only to Albert Pujols, and his .987 OPS is third behind Pujols and Prince Fielder. In September Lee is now hitting .408/.512/.887 with nine HR and 21 RBI in 19 games, and his 24 homers since July 1 lead the majors. He won't win the NL MVP -- that, of course, will go to Pujols -- but he should get some votes and surely finish in the top ten. He's had a year second only to his 2005 season; without his hot hitting who knows where the Cubs might be now?
That doesn't matter, I suppose; but it's certainly better to finish strong than not. The win over Milwaukee mathematically eliminated the Brewers from postseason consideration for 2009, though the Brewers seemed to have checked out of there long ago. Other hitting heroes last night were Kosuke Fukudome, who singled and doubled and scored twice, and Aramis Ramirez, whose two-run single gave him 63 RBI in 77 games. That total would put him on pace for nearly 130 in a full season, which would be a career high for him by a wide margin. Despite not playing at 100% due to his still-healing dislocated shoulder, A-Ram has had a fine year.
Thus, don't put too much stock in Paul Sullivan's scare-tactics article in which he asks A-Ram whether he'll opt out of his contract a year from now.
Ramirez said he isn't thinking about next year yet, and the Cubs aren't worried he will leave. But if they go through another year like this one, Ramirez could get antsy.
"If I choose to opt out, I have one more year," he said. "Hopefully Jim and the ownership do their best to improve the team."
Asked what needs to be done, Ramirez said: "That's a question for Jim Hendry. At the same time, Jim is a smart man. He knows what he has to do. He knows what went wrong. I'm pretty sure he's going to fix it."
I wouldn't worry about this. Ramirez himself says he has confidence that Hendry will fix what went wrong. Yes, A-Ram can opt out a year from now -- but that's a long way off. Let's see what happens before then -- in fact, a bigger, more important question this offseason might be, "Should the Cubs sign Lee to a contract extension?"
Randy Wells threw six solid innings last night. He'll make only one more start -- next Tuesday vs. the Pirates -- so unless he throws a CG (something Lou's unlikely to let him do unless his pitch count is unusually low), he'll wind up two or three innings short of qualifying for the ERA title. Still, Wells has has the best season for a Cubs rookie pitcher since Kerry Wood in 1998, something to look forward to for 2010.
Something else Cubs fans might look forward to next year is seeing Tyler Colvin in the mix for at least a platoon OF spot. He showed us at least one thing last night -- the man can play center field. He's got good range and instincts and became the second Cubs outfielder this season to rob a Brewer of a HR at Miller Park (remember Reed Johnson's pick of what would have been a Prince Fielder grand slam on April 12?). With one out in the ninth and a pair of runners on base, Colvin made a perfect jump to snatch Ryan Braun's long fly ball, which would have just made it over the CF wall. A run did wind up scoring, but Colvin then made a nice running catch of Fielder's sinking liner to end the game. At the very least, I think Colvin has to be given a shot to earn a role on the 2010 Cubs.
So if nothing else, the Cubs are making the last two weeks of the season enjoyable to watch again, with solid pitching, timely hitting and good defense. Keep up the good work. Maybe we'll "see this game" again tonight.