Could this Randy Wells stick around for a while, please?
Wells gave the Atlanta Braves only two hits over 6.2 innings, finally having to leave the game when Chipper Jones hit a monstrous home run almost to the center field bleachers, and the Cubs ended the Braves' six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory.
It seems to me that Wells might not have been 100% when he came back from the injury suffered after just one start this season. He's had first-inning troubles most of the year, but on Wednesday night he was outstanding. Until Jones' home run, he had given up just a scratch infield single to Martin Prado -- and Darwin Barney came close to throwing him out -- and two walks. Also, before Jones' blast, only six balls had even been hit out of the infield. It was just the second time in Wells' career that he had allowed two hits in a start longer than six innings; the other one, coincidentally, was also against the Braves on June 2, 2009 in Atlanta. Like last night's, that outing was also ended by a solo home run -- that night by Garret Anderson -- but unlike last night, that 2009 game was blown by the bullpen.
If Wells can continue to pitch this way -- and given what he did in 2009 and the second half of 2010, I don't see any reason why he can't -- he's a significant contributor to the 2012 Cubs at a very reasonable cost. He turns 29 on Monday, so he's still (relatively) young.
This time against the Braves, the bullpen hung on, though Kerry Wood made the game close by allowing a solo home run to Alex Gonzalez that went almost as far as Jones' did. Carlos Marmol hit the first batter he faced -- how often have we seen that? -- but settled down to record his 30th save. It was reported last night that he is only the second Cubs closer -- after Lee Smith, who had four in a row from 1984-1987 -- to post consecutive 30-save seasons. That is true, but it should also be pointed out that the following Cubs closers posted multiple 30-save seasons nonconsecutively: Bruce Sutter (31 in 1977, 37 in 1979) and Randy Myers (53 in 1993, 38 in 1995; 53 is still the team record). In all, Marmol's 30-save season is the 16th in team history. He was quoted after the game:
"I have a lot of blown saves, so I feel good about (30)," he said. "Thirty is pretty good, but let's see if I can get 40."
At least Marmol acknowledges his failures with the blown saves. Randy Myers' 53-save season and Rod Beck's 51 in 1998 are the only 40+ save seasons in Cubs history. If Marmol can post 10 more saves in the 32 games remaining, that'd mean the Cubs would most likely be having a strong finish to this so far miserable season.
As far as the rest of the team's performance Wednesday night was concerned, one of the best was posted by Tony Campana, who helped manufacture the run that turned out to be the difference in the game. Campana's speed may have given Dan Uggla a bit of the jitters on a ground ball to second base; Uggla couldn't get the ball out of his glove and Campana reached on an error. He stole second base, went to third on a balk and scored on a routine ground ball to Uggla by Wells.
Campana's not an everyday player. But his speed can disrupt another team. I know others have mentioned that sort of "disruption" here before -- but I haven't seen a player as fast as Campana before, either. He can be a useful fourth or fifth outfielder. He also walked -- if he can learn better plate discipline, so much the better. The more Campana can get on base, the more valuable he is.
Alfonso Soriano hit a home run in the Cubs' only scoring inning, the second. I keep hoping that someone will claim him on waivers, too. (Yes, I know that hope is probably forlorn.) Carlos Pena, who was claimed on waivers by the Yankees on Wednesday (and who will probably be pulled back), had another bunt single. If he did this just a little more often, he might be able to tack a few more points on to that .223 BA.
Wednesday night's game was played in front of an announced crowd of 37,098; it looked like there were about 22,000 in the house. These numbers are likely to both drop after Labor Day. Some people in the crowd started the wave Wednesday evening. Here's all I have to say about that: the wave is stupid. If you start it, or participate... well, draw your own conclusions.
It's supposed to be a gorgeous afternoon on Thursday; we'll see if this draws anyone out to the ballpark on what, for many, might be their last free summer weekday. The winner of Thursday afternoon's series finale will also be the winner of the season series between the two teams. A game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.