Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Bullpen shines in Cubs win

It's got a nice ring to it, doesn't it? "The first-place Chicago Cubs."

Rich Hill struggled again as he failed to complete fifth inning. The young left-hander was in and out of trouble all day and had his pitched count in the high 90's when he was relieved by Scott Eyre in the middle of an at-bat in the fifth inning.

The bullpen stepped up for Hill's shortcomings, though. Allowing just one hit in 4 1/3 innings, the combination of Eyre, Marmol, Howry, and Dempster kept the Philadelphia Phillies in a tie before Matt Murton doubled to lead off the ninth and then took third and home on separate wild pitches to win the game and propel the Chicago Cubs into first place.

Some may consider the Cubs and Brewers in a tie for first place, but the Cubs do have a better winning percentage and fewer losses. Nonetheless, the Cubs do have at least a share of first place and it feels great! The Cubs have looked like a brand new team since June 3, going 35-18 since Piniella was ejected by Mark Wegner during a game against the Braves.

The Cubs also looked like a ballclub totally different from the Cubs of April and May in many ways this game. We hit a lefty pretty well -- and a soft tossing lefty at that. We scored the winning run on a bloop double and a pair of wild pitches. We won another one-run ballgame. And the opposition had baserunning errors and missed out on a lot of scoring chances. It looks like the mistakes we were making earlier in this year are finally evening themselves out.

It's okay to be excited about being in first place on August 1, because it is an exciting time! But we should realize that there is still plenty of baseball left. With 55-ish games remaining for both teams, there's still plenty of season left. In fact, there are two full calendar months left, so let's try not to get too excited just yet. Statistical probability says that the Cubs will likely be in sole possession of first place at some point during the season and equally likely that the Brewers will be back in first place at some point during the season.

It's still a little too early to be overly concerned about how the opposition does in every single game; if we keep winning, things will continue to take care of themselves. It's definitely too early to start thinking about the postseason and magic numbers. The point I'm trying to make is that there is still a ton of baseball left. It's exciting for us and the Brewers, because we're not in this situation often. But for the perennial contenders, the race is just getting starting.

Oh, and even though I told you not to think about it: 57.

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