Sunday, July 1, 2007

Cubs answer improbable call

Frustrated with the series loss in Arlington, I looked at my schedule and told a friend that if the Cubs were to go anything less than 8-1 in the next nine games, I would stop watching. Was I serious? Probably not, but I was pretty upset with being 8 1/2 games out of first place. I was also upset about the way the series finale against Texas had ended.

Down 5-0, the Cubs battled back to tie the game at 5-5, only to have the Rangers score the winning run in the ninth after Bobby Howry botched a run-down. Since then, however, the Cubs have played much better baseball and looked like a Major League team, getting clutch hits when necessary, battling back from tough situations, and executing the fundamentals of the game.

The nine games that were coming up on the schedule when I made the statement were three at the White Sox and a six-game homestand with the Rockies and Brewers. Though I wished for a sweep of the Brewers, the Cubs won the first seven games of that stretch and split the last two against Milwaukee to get that improbable 8-1. After taking the rubber game of the series against the Brewers, two Cubs found out that they would be heading to San Francisco next week for the All-Star Game.

Alfonso Soriano, who had led Barry Bonds by a slim margin at the last vote count, fell to fourth place in the N.L. outfield position but was voted in on the player's ballot as a reserve. The players also voted in two reserves at first base, including Derrek Lee. Initially, I had believed that Lee would not make the team, because LaRussa wouldn't want to take three first basemen, but the decision was made before it got to LaRussa.

Carlos Zambrano is on the ballot for the final roster spot.

The Brewers, unfortunately, played real well during the Cubs' 8-1 stretch by posting a 6-3 record and only losing two games off of the lead, which is at a still-comfortable for 6 1/2 games. I don't expect that the Cubs play .889 ball the rest of the season, but I do expect us to consistently keep winning serieses and beating the teams that we need to beat, which include the next seven games: at Washington and at Pittsburgh.

I'd like for us to be able to close the gap a bit more before the All-Star break. Even though we have seven games against the Nationals and Pirates, it would be hard to pick up too much ground on the first-place Brewers because they too, have seven games against the Pirates and Nationals.

With the record now at 40-40, I'd also like for this to be the last time this year that the Cubs are at or below .500. Instead of measuring the record against the .500 mark, it's time we start shooting for "5 games over .500" and "10 games over .500".

No comments: