Monday, June 22, 2009

Thanks, Cleveland! We Needed That!

It is amazing what a few miracle comebacks in a row can do for your mental state as a fan. On Thursday, around about the 8th inning against the White Sox, we were about ready to crawl into a hole and not come out until Bears training camp started in Bourbannais.

But then, the baseball gods must have become distracted by a thing, because almost nothing has gone wrong for the Cubs since their comeback against the Sox.

They followed up their stunning victory on Thursday by rolling out the red carpet for the most revered of all ex-Cubs, Luis Vizcaino. Oh, and Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood came in with the Indians too. They spotted Cleveland a 7-0 lead almost before we had been able to come to grips with the reality of the day before.

Normally, when you give Cliff Lee a seven run lead and have one and two pitch at-bats, you are going to lose, but the Cubs somehow managed to get into the Cleveland bullpen. To say that Cleveland's bullpen is flammable is kind of like saying that the Hindenburg got a little warm. After watching those guys attempt to hold leads, I'm actually a little shocked they didn't claim Neal Cotts off waivers when the Cubs dumped him since they are currently carrying a guy with an ERA over eleven.

So the Cubs managed another miraculous comeback walk-off victory by welcoming back another one of their former players, Slappy Theriot. Slappy had been traded for Muscles in mid-season, and despite an early favorable response, Muscles had worn out his welcome, and the clamoring for Slappy ensued. They look almost identical, but you can tell the difference because Slappy tends to hit sinking linedrives into right field, whereas Muscles tries to hit every ball to Evanston (and fails miserably).

Slappy's first at-bat while back with the Cubs was a bad-hop grounder past Victor Martinez to score Soriano, who had just shocked everyone by imitating a prototypical leadoff man, by walking and stealing second. Did I forget to mention that the reason all of that happened was because Kerry Wood blew a save? Well, it was.

The next day featured a Kerry Wood meltdown of Cublike stature. I felt a little dirty taking delight in Kerry's obvious problems on the mound, but it was nice to be on the other side of that coin for once. He got himself into trouble by walking Kosuke to leadoff the bottom of the 13th after all-powerful Luis Valbuena deposited his third homerun of the series into the bleachers to give the Indians the lead. Wood probably should have gotten out of the jam when he struck out Koyie Hill on a 3-2 pitch with Kosuke running, but Kelly Shoppach made a horrendous throw into centerfield and Kosuke ended up at third with only one out instead.

Andy White bounced one by the mound and a drawn in infield to tie the score, and then Aaron Miles accidentally hit a blooper down the line to bring up the big, bad Jake Fox. Kerry denied Fox the opportunity to be the hero because he uncorked one of his patented, I'm-going-to-throw-this-ball-absolutely-through-the-catcher-and-show-this-rookie-who's-boss wild pitches. Game over. More Cubs bouncing around the infield ensued as Wood tossed his equipment into the stands as he walked off.

On Sunday, the Cubs actually scored early and they scored often in an effort to finally give Randy Wells a much-earned first major league victory. The game really shouldn't have had any suspense at all, but when you are talking about Wells leaving with a lead, nothing feels safe. Nevertheless, the 6-0 lead held up for a 6-2 victory and the Cubs had completed a sweep of the American League's crappiest team.

So where does this leave the Cubs? The short, simple answer is: third place only 2 and a half behind St. Louis. The actual answer is: Who the hell knows?

Cubs fans are feeling pretty good, but I get the feeling that we are feeling a little too good about what the Cubs just managed to accomplish. Cleveland is a pretty crappy team. Yes, I know they have Mark DeRosa, but he was pretty quiet in the series (certainly quieter than the crowd who seemed to be hoping that DeRosa would actually hit a homerun whenever he came to the plate). He drove in the seventh run on Friday, and a run after they were down by six on Sunday, so those were hardly clutch at-bats, though he didn't embarass himself aside from running into the bullpen phone while in the field.

Luis Valbuena is the only guy who did anything consistently in the series. This guy has four homeruns in his career, and three of them happened on Friday and Saturday. He has a .218 average against everyone else he has faced in his career. He batted .429 in the series. Who knew that Luis Valbuena is Spanish for Jeff Blauser? (By the way, his other homerun is against the White Sox at the Cell.)

The Cubs SHOULD beat Cleveland. It would have been extremely depressing if they hadn't beaten Cleveland at home.

I'm happy the offense is coming around a bit. Slappy seems to be back, and Geovany and Milton are quietly hitting alongside a rejuvenated Derrek Lee. The pitching, on the whole, has remained solid enough for me to not go into a panic about Rich Harden's Frank Castillo impression from Friday.

I even like our bullpen as it is currently composed. Marmol needs to figure it out pretty quick, but the others, including Rule 5 Patton, have stepped up significantly since the departure of Mr. Cotts.

So, is this the beginning of a surge that can carry the Cubs back to the top of the division, or merely a .500 team teasing us again with a flash of brilliance. We'll see, but its nice to be on a peak for now, instead of a deep, dark valley.


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