This weekend series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, overall has been a great series for the Chicago Cubs and their fans. Tonight’s game, gives the Cubs a chance to win a series against the very same Dodger team that eliminated them from the playoffs in a three game sweep. While winning the series will be great, the series win comes about seven months too late for the liking of many Cub fans. But why dwell on the past, when you cant change things? You have to live in the here and now, and right now the Cubs have a chance to win a series against the best team in baseball. That is something to stand up and take notice of, especially when your own team has been struggling as of late.
For the first time this series, a team scored more then two runs. In what I am sure comes as a surprise, that team was not the Dodgers. Yesterday, the Cubs offense broke out scoring seven runs, with just about everyone contributing. While there are a few people who could get the nod as the offensive MVP for the game, Reed Johnson would get my vote. Going 3-3 at the plate, which included a homerun and two RBI, Johnson helped to light the fire under the offense. With the way Johnson has been playing, many fans would love to see him in the outfield on an everyday basis, but that will not be the case for two reasons. First, there is no room for him in the outfield with Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley all being mainstays in the everyday lineup. Another reason for his being held out, is that he is a right handed hitter. He will get his fair share of starts when there is a lefty on the mound, but other then that, he will be regulated to bench duty. I don’t mean to diminish what he can and has done for this team, he is just a victim of circumstance.
While Johnson’s efforts were great, he was not alone in having a breakout game, Bradley also had a game that fans have been waiting for him to have since his arrival in Chicago. Bradley matched Johnson by recording three this, but was unable to drive in any runs. While you want to see one of your main run producers drive in the men on base, there isn’t much you can do if there are none on base when you come up to bat. As a matter of fact, he only left one runner stranded the entire game. Bradley is starting to heat up as the weather does, and he has brought his average up to .223, which considering how slow he started the season is great to see. With Bradley starting to hit as we all knew he would, the offense should start scoring runs in bunches.
Mike Fontenot is another player who deserves to be singled out for his play yesterday. The man that Ron Santo likes to call “Little Babe Ruth” had a great game recording two hits. Both of Fontenot’s hits just missed being homeruns, so he had to settle for a double and a triple. This could only be considered a good thing when you look at Fontenot, as he has been in a very bad slump for the longest time. Fontenot was one of the men who was looked at to be a key contributor for this ball club, as he was sliding in to take Mark DeRosa’s place in the lineup. Sadly, so far in the season, he has been unable to make the transition from bench player to everyday player as well as everyone had hoped. He still has about four months to turn his season around, he has a long way to go before he even matches his stats from last year. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.
Despite the offensive breakout in yesterday’s game, the pitching of the Cubs gets all the credit in the world for the two wins the Cubs have gotten so far. They have limited the Dodgers to just three runs in the three games, highlighted by Ryan Dempster’s seven shutout innings in yesterday’s game. After a very ugly outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he allowed six runs in four innings of work, Dempster pitched his best game of the year against the best hitting team in baseball. In fact, yesterday’s game was the first time all season the Dodgers have been shut out. That is a statement both teams can be proud of, in all honesty. The Dodgers going almost two months without being shutout, and the Cubs being the first team to leave them without a run. While Dempster did most of the damage to the Dodgers yesterday, the bullpen deserves some credit as well. My only complaint with Dempster in yesterday’s game, was his at bat where he tried to bunt for a base hit with two outs. What he was thinking with that at bat is anyone’s guess. Other then that, Dempster was the star of the game.
While Dempster delivered seven innings of scoreless baseball, the bullpen stepped up and finished the job. Angel Guzman continued his dominant stretch in his new setup role, recording a 1-2-3 inning. With Guzman and Carlos Marmol in the tail end of our bullpen, I like our chances to win a lot of close games down the stretch. Those two alone can be a very dominant 1-2 punch out of the bullpen. That brings me to Aaron Heilman, who while looking shaky, got the job done. Sure, he allowed two men to reach base before getting out of the inning without a run scoring, but how many times have we seen Marmol do that same exact thing? While Heilman gives many Cub fans fits, he is exactly who he has always been out of the bullpen. There is rarely an in between for Heilman, as he is either really good, or really bad. All Cub fans can do is hope he is really good more then he is really bad. That being said, he has lost his setup role to Guzman, so we will likely only see him in games that are out of hand one way or another.
Hopefully, in tonight’s game, Sean Marshall can continue the dominant pitching we have seen from the Cubs starters. He has pitched well this season, only allowing more then three runs once this season, so there is no reason to expect anything else. Tonight, the Cubs can get a small piece of revenge against the team that swept them out of the playoffs last year. While this series win would be nothing compared to a playoff series, you still have to feel good.