I trust there will be no calls for Jim Hendry's firing today?
Seriously, we have to wait at least another month to evaluate how the 2010 Cubs are going to do for the entire season. If they can keep hitting the way they did in today's 11-5 blowout of the Diamondbacks, things ought to look a lot better by Memorial Day.
Perhaps the last two days aren't the best to evaluate any team. The Cubs and Diamondbacks traded home run days -- today, it was the Cubs' turn to give up only one, while hitting four, the biggest of the four being Alfonso Soriano's three-run blast that put the Cubs ahead to stay, 6-4, in a four-run sixth inning that was only made possible by the wind helping D'backs pitcher Rodrigo Lopez drop an easy popup. The next hitter, Tyler Colvin, flied to center. That would have ended the inning if not for the error -- instead, it became a sac fly, and one pitch later, Soriano put the Cubs ahead.
Several fly balls hit by D'backs off Randy Wells landed in the gaps for doubles. No Cub outfielder can be blamed for those -- they were all hard hit balls that found the precise spots to fall in. That led to a three-run fourth inning; Wells didn't have his best day, but still managed to finish six innings, striking out eight and walking nobody. He threw 65 of 94 pitches for strikes. On a day with the wind howling out to center field (as opposed to Thursday, when it was blowing out to left) at 25+ MPH, that's a satisfactory result for any Cub starting pitcher.
The Cubs finally broke through when A.J. Hinch brought in Blaine Boyer to relieve Lopez. Boyer had absolutely no command of any of his pitches, even though he was throwing hard (one of them showed on the Wrigley pitch meter at 98 MPH). He threw only 11 strikes in 27 pitches, issued three walks (two of them forcing in runs), and let the Cubs put the game away.
Geovany Soto and Marlon Byrd put the exclamation point on the victory with back-to-back home runs in the last of the 8th; Byrd's blast hit the street and was caught on the fly by Ballhawk Dave (with our own ballhawk in pursuit). Lou Piniella, in a jocular mood during his postgame news conference, joked: "I thought he was going to win the $1 million", referring to the new casino advertising sign on Waveland.
As if on cue, once Byrd had hit the homer, even more seagulls than yesterday dropped by Wrigley Field and ensconced themselves in right field in front of Kosuke Fukudome, who had also homered earlier, his rocket hitting Sheffield. Fukudome almost didn't know what to do when Kelly Johnson lined a ninth-inning single among the birds, scattering them. By then, this was a matter for laughter, with the Cubs having a six-run lead.
Kudos today to the bullpen; John Grabow did a nice job after Chris Snyder led off the seventh with a HR, chasing Wells. The lead was only 6-5 at the time, and Grabow dispatched the D'backs 1-2-3. Carlos Zambrano gave up a pair of harmless singles -- one of them probably should have been an error on Derrek Lee -- and Carlos Marmol finished up once again in a non-save situation, made necessary by his not having pitched since Monday.
There is still a bit of worry about D-Lee and Aramis Ramirez, who had quiet days, although Derrek had a pair of singles. The rest of the offense stepped up big today; if Lee and A-Ram can take the turn of the calendar and turn their hitting on, this team will score a lot of runs.
Big thunderstorms are supposed to blow through the Chicago area overnight, but leave by game time tomorrow; it's forecast to be another mid-70's day tomorrow with the wind again blowing out. The average game-time temperature so far this year has been 59 degrees, and three times has been over 70 -- unheard-of for April. The Cubs need to bring their hitting shoes again tomorrow..