Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cubs hit bottom... then soar to split

I started writing during the 8th inning of today's Crosstown Classic North game that the Sox had completed the sweep (sort of--the series won't officially be over until September). I either jinxed the Sox, or turned around the luck of the Cubs, depending on how you want to look at it.

The Cubs won 6-5, today, literally minutes after being down 5-1 and exhibiting again that they could not drive in runs even with a man on 3rd and no outs. It all happened in the bottom of the 8th. Milton Bradley struck out for out No. 2 while Micah Hoffpauir waited on 3rd and Alfonso Soriano, who moments before proved he was still alive by notching a basehit, waited on 1st base. Bradley was walking around the dugout with his bat still in his hands and his helmet still on, so stunned he may have been by his and other hitters' inability to convert baserunners into scoreboard digits. Then, almost at the instant the TV picture returned to the home plate, Derrek Lee, the one Cub who has been on a tear, plunked a 3-run homer into the basket. Moments later, Geovany Soto added a solo shot to tie the game 5-5.

And, suddenly, there was life... Reed Johnson started the bottom of the 9th, score still tied, with a single, was moved over to second on a perfect bunt by Andres Blanco, and scored the game-winner on a bloop single by Soriano. Yes, boys, it's that easy.

I literally had been very near giving up on the Cubs for the year, as dramatic as that sounds. Now, I'm going to wait until at least tomorrow. Prior to Lee's homer, I was just sick of things not working, and sick of Lou Piniella's What-am-I-supposed-to-do stance, which yesterday evolved into an I'm-about-to-do-something-but-not-quite-yet stance. I didn't see where Lou had any options, unless he moved Soriano to 2nd base to get the hotter, younger bats of Jake Fox and Micah Hoffapauir into the outfield. Bench Kosuke Fukudome for Johnson? Sure, but the problem has been that not enough of the dots have been getting connected on offense. It almost hasn't mattered how much talent allegedly was behind those dots.

That was happening again in the 8th inning until the consecutive homers, and I'm not sure everything was fixed by those miracles. We'll see. The changes that may need to be made might be in Jim Hendry's hands, rather than Lou's.

So, the Cubs earned a split with the White Sox after the Sox cruised to a 4-1 victory yesterday. They still looked great today, with Gavin Floyd silencing the Cubs and The Missile, Chris Getz, Gordon Beckham, Brian Anderson and Paulie all contributing timely hits today. Getz also unfortunately contributed a poorly-timed error to allow Hoffpauir on in the 8th. And, the bullpen that I've felt would come to be the Sox' second-half charm blew it today, though the loss was really on the hands of Scott Linebrink, who struck out Bradley, but then gave up the consecutive homers.

It's hard to tell how good the Sox are from this trip to Wrigley--they are 31-35. Yesterday, the used great fundamentals and a little power plus a knockout performance from John Danks to beat up on a Cubs team that looked broken down completely. Sox fans should take more from the last two impressive victories against the slugging Brewers than these two contests. While I'm hoping Hendry is going shopping, I'm hoping Kenny Williams is staying home at least a little longer.

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