Finally and decisively, though hardly easily, the Cubs clinched the Central Division title for the second straight year, giving them a postseason berth for the second straight year for the first time in 100 years.
The Cubs beat the Cardinals 5-4, and were able to take advantage of some poor fielding early in the game on a base-loaded single by Al-So that turned into a double and scored three runs. DeRo added an RBI later, and even Lilly drove in a run on a squueze bunt. Lilly was pretty good, except for a four-run 6th, and Marmol and Woody made almost no mistakes in preserving the close victory.
There was much debate about whether or not the Cubs would celebrate--or perhaps how they would celebrate--given that the World Series is the ultimate target and this team is supposed to be so different than past Cubs teams. To me, it looked like the usually bubbly bath over fresh Division Champ T-shirts and caps for everyone, complete with stupid observations from media and fans about how there's just nothing better than this. Sure there is, and getting to the World Series would be just a start.
Sorry if I sound a bit sour. Maybe, I'm still mad that they didn't clinch when I was at Wrigley yesterday, but my desire to stay serious--even through the next week just to go into the postseason on the right foot--is also just a reflection of how far the Cubs have to go, and how hard it will be. I was happy to hear many of the Cubs players take the same tone in their post-game interview today.
For the rest of the way, I'd like to see the Cubs play their regulars, with a couple exceptions: Theriot should maybe get some prolonged rest, while putting in additional time at the batting cage to get out of his awful slump. Also, while Fukie used to be a regular, he no longer is, and I think Lou should actually start him the rest of the way against whatever right handers are left, perhaps make him a bunt a few times and work hard on drawing walks and stealing bases if he gets on. His main value right now is as a glove man, but his experience and training give him some valuable tools that could be key during the postseason--and he may night have to drive the ball anywhere to make something happen. If the Cubs get in some close games during the next week, I'd also like to see them use Samarzdija and Howry in set-up and closer roles at least once--maybe give Marmol and Woody a night off, though not every night off, and get the Notre Dame kid and the embattled Howry into a few more tight situations.
The White Sox won last night 9-4 and, witrh a Piranhas loss, got their magic number down to 7. Today, the Sox lost, but the with the Piranhas still being tortured by the now-postseason-bound
Rays, the magic number slid down to 6. It's looking an awful lot like this week's trip to Minnesota will be the crucible.
Last night, Buehrle was on short rest, but pretty solid through 6 IP, and didn't implode after giving up a 3-run HR to Sox nemesis Mark Teahen. The big blast for the Sox was The Missile's third grand slam of the year, which came after an epic nine-pitch at-bat where you could tell Alexei had K.C. pitcher Brian Bannister under his thumb. With CQ out, the young, skinny Cuban has become the most surprisingly potent offensive threat for this team.
And what about DeWayne Wise? He hit two HRs Friday night and has four in the last week. The Great and Powerful Oz should play him as often as possible the rest of the way, since Dirty 30 can not necessarily be counted on.
The Sox have pitchers working on short rest now with mixed results. Gavin Floyd seemed like a sure thing today, but was not good, as far as what we have come to expect from him. He gave up 5 runs in just over 6 IP. The Sox never really got it together at the plate either. The Missile homered again, but this time with only one man on base, and very late in the game. The Sox managed only three other hits. When they are off the mark, they are way, way off. The division still belongs to the White Sox, though, and it will be their division to win or lose the rest of the way.
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