The Chicago Cubs have swept their first series of the year, beating the San Diego Padres in a three game set. Perhaps the timing is just a coincidence, but the sweep comes on the very first series the Cubs have played without Aramis Ramirez. Maybe, just maybe the Cubs will be able to keep pace with the rest of the National League Central. Or maybe the Padres are just really really bad. No matter the reason you lean towards, the Cubs are doing exactly what they need to do while Ramirez is on the disabled list. That is winning games by having everyone else pick up their own games. There is no single player who deserves credit, as they have all been team wins.
The starting pitching was outstanding this series, as all three of our starters lasted into at least the sixth inning. Rich Harden matched would be Cub Jake Peavy pitch for pitch and eventually showed that he was the better pitcher on the day limiting the Padres to two runs. Not to be outdone, Ted Lilly matched Harden’s efforts, by mirroring the first inning but ending with only allowing three runs in six plus innings. Ryan Dempster, not to be outdone by his fellow pitchers went out and threw a gem to secure the sweep allowing only two runs in seven innings of work. You shouldn’t be too surprised with the starting staff, as everyone in the rotation has appeared to step things up when staff ace Carlos Zambrano went down with his hamstring injury.
However, the starters are not the only pitchers to shut down the Padres, the bullpen put together three great games. In their 6.2 innings the combined for five hits and two runs. The first run came in the eighth inning of Wednesday nights rain shortened game off of Carlos Marmol who picked up the unexpected save. The second came off of Jose Ascanio making his first appearance of the season in Thursdays game. Everyone, with the exception of David Patton and Neal Cotts, in the bullpen contributed in this series, and all deserve credit for helping the Cubs keep their leads.
The Cubs offense thrived in this series, scoring six runs in the first two games and 11 in the final game. In the series there were six home runs, two by Ryan Theriot and one each by Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto and Bobby Scales. None of those homers came in the finale though, that was all done with good clutch hits. Speaking of Bradley, while we are still waiting to hear word on the verdict of his appeal, he has begun to heat things up with his bat. While he is still hitting .194 he has put together a good hitting streak which has seen his batting average climb in the past few games. Be patient with him, because when you start off as slow as he did, there will be a long climb back to respectability with the batting average. Soto is another player who seems to be coming out of his season long slump. He has put together a couple of games where he has been the player we saw last year. The only everyday players who still seem to be in a slump are first baseman Derrek Lee and second baseman Mike Fontenot. While his critics have been calling for Micah Hoffpauir to replace Lee, Cubs manager Lou Piniella has stuck with Lee despite his struggles. Fontenot, who is also struggling doesn’t seem to be getting any grief for his slump, maybe because he isn’t being paid nearly as much as Lee. However if Scales continues playing as well as he has since being recalled, Fontenot might find his way back to the bench at some point this season.
Not really much from me today, which is rare, but I will end with this. As I mentioned in my last blog, the Cubs are doing fine without their best player for now. Whether or not that will continue to be the case, I don’t know. But they are on a four game winning streak, which is pretty damn good. The offense has come together and has been putting up great numbers to help the Cubs win games. The pitching staff has come together with some amazing starts as well. Everyone is picking up the ball that was dropped when Ramirez left, and that is exactly what had to be done for the Cubs to survive. Even though there is still plenty of time left for the Cubs without Ramirez, these past few games has got to of eased the minds and worried hearts of Cub fans everywhere. Lets go to Houston to play the Astros, and continue what has been started.