But for today, we can note that Mike Quade accomplished something that Lou Piniella did not -- win his first game as Cubs manager. The first game of the 2007 season, Lou's first as Cubs skipper, was a 5-1 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati. Just short of six months later, the Cubs returned to Cincinnati in triumph, clinching the NL Central title there.
Last night's game, though all it did was move the Cubs from 21.5 to 20.5 games behind the Reds, was enjoyable nevertheless. A five-run outburst in the third inning off an old Cubs nemesis, Livan Hernandez, was all they'd need. It was highlighted by Blake DeWitt's third home run since joining the Cubs. In 80 plate appearances, DeWitt is hitting .338/.400/.507 since the deal. Do I expect him to hit this way for a full season next year? No, but he's clearly a better hitter than both Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot, and, having just turned 25 last Friday, he still has a chance to get better.
Something else worth noting for the offense: Aramis Ramirez walked twice, went 1-for-3 and scored two runs. He has raised his season average to .245 and since his return from the disabled list on June 25, he is hitting .321/.368/.609 over 201 plate appearances with 33 runs scored, 14 HR and 41 RBI in 49 games.
I'll do the math for you. That pro-rates to 109 runs, 46 HR and 136 RBI over a 162-game season. Now, granted, A-Ram generally misses 20 games a year even in his best seasons, but these numbers are in line with what he had done most of his career before the last two seasons, which he's spent mostly injured. He may wind up with decent full-season stats this year and play in about 120 games. Even with a strong finish, it's unlikely he'll opt out of his contract in the current market -- and the Cubs should hope not, because if he did, they would lose a productive player. It seems clear that Ramirez can still be one, at least for the next couple of years.
Mike Quade is "auditioning", to use his word, for next year's manager's job. Casey Coleman made his case last night to be part of the 2011 pitching staff. The Nationals, once a better-hitting club, are, suprising to some, 14th in runs scored in the NL this year. Nevertheless, Coleman did a fine job shutting them down for six-plus innings. He's certainly earned some more starts to see whether he can be useful next year. A fulltime rotation starter? Maybe not, but then, no one thought Randy Wells could be one either.
It's always nice to win, even from the lower levels of the standings. From the telecast the announced crowd of 17,921 at Nationals Park seemed like it wasn't much more than half of that and many of those were Cubs fans -- the cheering for DeWitt's home run came across loud and clear.
Finally, it just felt different. The TV reaction shots of Quade in the dugout showed him consulting various printed materials during the game -- where did those glasses come from? It was nice to see Bob Dernier as 1B coach (wearing #54; he is the first Cubs coach to wear that number since Stan Hack wore it briefly in a 1965 return to the team)... I suspect Dernier will be strongly considered by anyone who is named manager in 2011 for his coaching staff.
Keep up the good work, guys.