The Cubs rollercoaster season continues
The rollercoaster ride that the Chicago Cubs have been taking their fans on this entire season continues. After things have looked their bleakest, the Cubs won three of four games from the team which at the time lead the division, the Milwaukee Brewers, and did so in dominant fashion in two of them. With as critical as I have been with this team over the past few weeks, the only fair and just thing to do would be to also give them the praise that they deserve. With the way the ball club has played over the last week, they have earned a pat on the back.
I will freely admit, that a week ago, I thought that this team was going to go nowhere fast. With the way the offense had been struggling, I was under the impression that, despite the three games with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the four game series with the division leading Brewers would be the final blow, knocking us out of contention. But something happened, the Cubs found new life. Mixed with a collection of players from Triple A, the Cubs started playing far better then they had been at any other time in the season. Counting last nights win against the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs have won six of their last eight games, and now sit in third place, only two games back of the new division leading St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps this new life that the Cubs have seemingly found is only temporary, but seeing them play baseball as well as they have this past week is great.
Yesterday, the Cubs got back three important players who they have been missing. Aramis Ramirez, Angel Guzman and Reed Johnson were all activated from the disabled list. With them returning to the ball club, three had to go, Kevin Hart and Sam Fuld were optioned back to the minor leagues, while the Rule 5 draft pick David Patton was placed on the disabled list with what the Cubs called a “strained groin”. I doubt he is actually injured, but his going on the disabled list is a convenient excuse to keep him off the roster while keeping him as a part of the active roster so they could hold on to his rights.
While niether Johnson nor Guzman got into the game yesterday, Ramirez started and went hitless. While getting these stars back on the roster is huge, you can not discredit what some of the current Cubs have been doing, The Cubs hottest hitter, Derrek Lee, is smashing the ball as if he is reliving his 2005 campaign. Additionally, with the recent lineup changes Cubs Manager Lou Piniella has made, Kosuke Fukudome has found new life as the teams new leadoff hitter. With Fukudome leading off, Alfonso Soriano has been lowered down to sixth in the order. This is a move that has been a long time coming, and you have to wonder why this wasn’t done sooner. Fukudome looks to be a perfect fit leading off games, as his patience helps work the count in a way we haven’t seen out of Soriano. However, he will not be leading off games when there is a lefty on the mound, that honor will go to Johnson who shares a platoon with Fukudome in Center Field.
However, news today is saddening, as the Cubs will be placing starting pitcher Ryan Dempster on the disabled list with a broken toe. Starting on three days rest, Carlos Zambrano will take the ball in Dempster’s absence. Coming off of his most impressive start of the year, you would think that I would have nothing but confidence in him starting tonight’s game against a team which is not as good as the Brewers. I am not too fond of any pitcher going on short rest, let alone Zambrano who is as lose of a cannon as they come. Being on short rest he is more liable to make a mistake, and we all know that when he makes a mistake he gets made at himself and makes more mistakes. Hopefully tonight, he will be able to avoid making any costly mistakes. Taking Dempster’s place on the 25 man roster will be recently demoted Hart who will likely resume his roll in the bullpen with Shawn Marshall once again joining the rotation. Though that is, of course, just a guess.
With the Cubs riding high on their recent stretch of success, you have to hope that they will continue. With one test down, they have one final test before the All Star break beings. The Cubs will be playing the Cardinals in a four game series that leads into the break. A series win could see the Cubs enter the break in first place, a spot that seemed to be light years away. While this rollercoaster ride of a season can once again see the Cubs enter another low point, the future has never looked brighter then after winning the series over the Brewers. If they are able to finish the first half strong, the second half of the season could be one to remember.