Monday, June 29, 2009

Quality start FINALLY not wasted

Rich Harden did his job (and then some) and though not stellar, the Cub offense did just enough to get the win. Although clearly not a corner-turning, epiphany of a performance for the offense, it was refreshing to see at least some progress. Andres Blanco's 2 out RBI single, awkward looking swing and all, was something that has been lacking in recent weeks.

I talked about his inability to get Ryan Freel home in a similar situation Sunday. I know it is only one run and not back breaking in the least, but I imagine it puts the starter at ease. Getting that first run puts a tiny amount of pressure on the other team, and each inning they can't answer that pressure builds and builds. It was nice to see the Cubs execute in that situation tonight.

Milt's RBI double was a thing of beauty. You know he hit it really well because Geo was able to chug around and score from first. I definitely liked where Lou had him tonight, he certainly doesn't need the pressure that comes with hitting third and obviously he isn't producing enough to be there in the first place.

Player of the game clearly has to go to Rich Harden. 9 strikeouts against 1 walk is so encouraging and exciting for Cub fans. His slider was unhittable tonight, and Baseball Tonight had him getting 16 swings and misses on it. If he can even get half of what he got out of his slider tonight he'll turn in one great second half. The best part of his start, however, was how he battled when his stuff started to wane (6 of his 9 strikeouts were in the first 4 innings), and was able to get out of jams in his final three innings.

The pitching situation tonight went exactly according to plan. Don't you wish Lou could use that as a template every night? 7 quality innings from the starter, shut-down Marmol in the 8th, shut down Gregg in the 9th. Perfection. Lately I have been optimistic for the bullpen simply for the unfortunate reason that I felt they were due a good outing. It was nice to see no walks from Marmol/Gregg too.

As for the Pirates, maybe they watched a little too much tape on the Cubs? The way they played that game sure looked familiar: starter earns quality start AND loss, 15 LOB (though Cubs had the same number), and blown opportunities in the 5th, 6th, and 7th. Hopefully that flawed game template is contagious and has transferred over to the Pirates.

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