Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hearts, nails rejoice: Cubs back to NL

Interleague play for the Cubs this year can be summed up in one word: rollercoaster. Their 14 game jaunt through the American League Central included six games that ended in walk-off fashion (unfortunately two went against the Cubs). Each game was close and nail-biting, with the expection of today and the 7-4 loss to the Twins.

I really don't want to say too much about today's game because it was pretty cut and dry. Z wasn't at his best and the Cub offense failed to capitalize on the opportunities they got early on. For no reason in particular, Andres Blanco popping out to end the second with Ryan Freel on third stood out to me.

Though neither player was on the roster last year, I just felt like that was one of those small, seemingly insignificant situations the team excelled in last year. In 2008 the ball would have found a hole in the infield and an early lead would have been theirs. It seems that those small situations just aren't happening for the Cubs this season.

For the third time in a row John Danks pitched really well against the Cubs. He is certainly nearing the distinction of Cub killer. I am pretty dissapointed because I thought they would have a good chance to get at him, much they like did with Buerhle the day before. On the lefty theme, it was unfortunate that while in an American League park we saw two left handers because the lineup is just better with Micah in there, and he had a good series in Detroit. Too bad we won't see him tomorrow night against Zach Duke either.

After starting their long road trip at 1-6, they'll look to rebound in Pittsburgh. Hopefully this is a good thing, as the Pirates have served as springboards for the Cubs the past two seasons. I am also excited to see Pirates rookie center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who is hitting .309 with 18 RBI in only 97 at bats. Also, he just recently was on a 13 game hitting streak. He isn't Nate McLouth either, so that makes it all the more exciting.

Even though he isn't on the Cubs, it is refreshing to see one of these highly-touted, tool players come up and actually show why they got so much press and hype. He is still a rookie, so hopefully the Cubs veteran starting staff can use that to their advantage.

As I see it, this is the Cubs most important series of the year so far. I am weary to label it must-win, but it is pretty darn close needed that they take 2 of 3. At 35-37 they are teetering dangerously close to being too far under when Aramis comes back. What is very fortunate is that everyone else in the division is experiencing problems of their own.

The Cubs need to take advantage of that and at least make up some ground against a weaker opponent. They run the risk everyday of the Brewers, Cardinals, or even the Reds going a little 4 or 5 game streak.

The key word right now is survival. The Cubs need to stay afloat at 4 (preferably 3) games back of the leader until Aramis comes back. It scares me to write that because I know that he is not Superman and that once he comes back the offense will not magically gel with Milt banging out clutch doubles, Sori getting hot, and Geo showing that lineup depth from the 6 spot. However, will improve the team and hopefully by then a corner will have begun to be turned.

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