The Cubs have scored 17 runs this year -- 12 of them as a result of home runs, including all four today in a 4-3 win over the Reds. The Cubs' eight dingers in five games is (at this writing) tied for the National League lead with the Cardinals, who also hit their eighth this afternoon.
Is this a good thing? Obviously, if you win it is. But can this team win by relying on the longball? I suppose if guys like Alfonso Soriano -- who hit his first today -- come back to their pre-2009 levels of performance, it can work. It's also nice when you get runners on base ahead of the homers, the old "pitching, defense and three-run homers" theory.
Today, the Cubs had Ryan Theriot on base in the fourth inning, their first baserunner, when a call that could have been ruled obstruction occurred. Aaron Harang threw a wild pitch; Theriot took second and looked like he might have headed toward third when the throw got past Brandon Phillips. Just then, Theriot ran into shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who appeared to plant himself right in Theriot's way. Rule 7.06 covers obstruction:
When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal "Obstruction." If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.
Now. The key in the ruling that C.B. Bucknor made is "in the umpire's judgment". I didn't think Theriot would have made third base; the ball didn't get that far away. Lou Piniella and Theriot argued, but in this case -- amazingly enough -- I think Bucknor got it right.
It didn't matter when Kosuke Fukudome homered two pitches later to put the Cubs on the board after they were trailing 3-0.
Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano was getting stronger after having spotted the Reds that 3-0 lead, in part by giving up a long home run to Phillips. Z became the first Cub starter to go seven innings this year and "lowered" his ERA to 11.88. Today is the Z we know well and the Z we need if the Cubs are going to have the same starting pitching they had a year ago. Since the debacle on Opening Day, the Cubs have allowed 3, 0, 5 and 3 runs, all earned, for a staff ERA of 2.91 in those four games. Keep that up and things will be just fine.
Props to Mike Fontenot, who made a slick falling-down play that was reminiscent of the one Andres Blanco made last September in New York. Yet, Lou pulled Fontenot in the eighth to have Jeff Baker face lefty Arthur Rhodes, and Baker delivered with the game-winning home run.
Finally, the bullpen did an outstanding job today -- John Grabow retiring three of four hitters in the middle of the Reds lineup and Carlos Marmol looking like the Marmol of 2008 in striking out the side on only 13 pitches (nine strikes) and snapping off several really good sliders. Marmol posted his second save of the year, and this is the Marmol the Cubs need to lead their bullpen.
If home runs are the way to wins in 2010 -- go for it. Here's to a series win tomorrow, a split on the road trip and head home for the opener at Wrigley against the Brewers on Monday.