Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good luck and lack thereof

A cat was seen skulking across the field during Tuesday night's Cubs-Reds game, but it wasn't a black cat. A fan was seen leaning over the left field side wall to catch a foul ball, but he wasn't wearing headphones and Moises Alou wasn't playing left field. So, we have no other recourse than to view these curiously familiar situations as good luck for the Cubs rather than bad.

The Cubs themselves may have been disinterested in omens of any kind, since they were busy cruising to a 7-2 victory behind 6-inning maestro Rich Harden. We may rarely see Harden go longer than the 6th inning, since that is usually about the time he closes in on 95 pitches and sets off the dugout alarm system that screams "PULL HIM! PULL HIM!" But, in most cases it's enough too make a huge impact, and he did last night, holding the Reds to 2 runs while striking out 8 batters. Interesting stat I saw on the MLB Network today: Harden currently has more strikeouts--34--in any 25 inning span to start a season than any other pitcher in baseball history. Not that it will mean much in the long run...

Most of the Cubs hitters did their jobs, drawing walks are getting hits off former Cub Micah Owings so that RBI-guru Aramis Ramirez could come up in his preferred situation with runners on base and get his fill: 3 RBIs last night on 3 hits, 14 RBIs now on the year. Micah Hoffpauir, who I am fast coming to prefer over Milton Bradley, had his first homer of the season (and the first Micah-on-Micah homerun in baseball history!) and added another RBI later on. Ryan Theriot stayed on pace for a 200-hit season with another multi-hit (2-4) game. Everything's rolling right now--except for Neal Cotts, of course, who started a relief appearance last night with strikeout, but quickly lost his bearings and let the next two batters on base. Rescuing Cotts is becoming a full-time job for Carlos Marmol, and he did it again last night, saving Cotts ERA by shutting down the would-be Reds rally.

Cotts, I think, will soon go the way of Mike MacDougal, the wild, unreliable reliever that the White Sox parted ways with before their Tuesday night game in Baltimore. MacDougal always appeared to have a nice arsenal of pitches and had been effective as the one-time closer in Kansas City, but his stay with the Sox was about 98% disappointing.

Still, the Sox could have used Mac for mop-up duty Tuesday night, as they got popped by the Orioles 10-3. Jose Contreras again took it on the chin, and has not been able to find his control since his promising early return from injury during spring training. Contreras had 6 BB and 6 ER in 5.1 IP. At 0-3, he's responsible for half the Sox losses this season.

He didn't get much help from the offense, which managed only 3 runs (2 of which were unearned after a Baltimore error) off a rookie pitcher, Brad Bergesen, who seemed to befuddle them. The only bright spot in this one, other than a reliable RBI each from Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko, was that Alexei Ramirez went 2-4 for the second game in a row. He seems to be scratching his way out of his slump.

The Sox looked great in Tampa the weekend, but apparently left their bats in Florida. They haven't had much luck at all in Baltimore in recent years, though what does luck have to do with anything?

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