Friday, April 15, 2011

Cubs Series Recap: Houston, We Are Back to .500

Article first published as Cubs Series Recap: Houston, we are back to .500 on Blogcritics.

First, the city of Houston was left out of the NASA Shuttle giveaway, and the bad news continued as the slumping Astros (4-9) dropped two of three to the Chicago Cubs (6-6) in this early season series. The two wins evened up the Cubs on the road trip and for the season.

Dempster gets a W - I love the decision to use Ryan Dempster in the opening game as opposed to using what would have been the fifth starter spot, formerly occupied by the injured Andrew Cashner and instead filled by James Russell and the bullpen. Indeed, the "bullpen night" that we saw on Tuesday resembled just that as the Cubs gave up early runs and didn't stand a chance in a miserable 11-2 loss. With a limited offense (finally breaking through for nine runs in the following game), the Cubs can't afford to give up too many runs early on, nor can they concede every fifth start.

Station to Station - This series marked the first stolen base for the team as Starlin Castro swiped a bag on Monday and then followed up with his second in the rubber game. The top of the lineup is looking pretty well solidified with Castro, Barney and Byrd, as those three are averaging .389, .353. and .345 respectively. Add in Jeff Baker's .385 average, and you've got some solid hits coming at the top of the order. Although there may not be the traditional speed on the bases at the top of the lineup, the Cubs' leadoff hitters are atop the National League in batting average and on-base percentage

Putting up the hits - Manager Mike Quade put together a great lineup on Wednesday with the top of the order as mentioned above followed by streaking Aramis Ramirez, Jeff Baker, Geovany Soto, Alfonso Soriano, and Tyler Colvin.  It never hurts to have Carlos Zambrano as the ninth hitter, and he actually delivered what turned out to be the game winning homer for the team. In total, the lineup delivered 9 runs on 14 hits and most importantly, a 5-0 lead for Big Z early on. It was good to see Soto get a pair of hits, though we're still waiting for Carlos Pena and Colvin to up their production.

Keeping Score: A series win brought the Cubs closer to my predicted 85 wins.

On Deck: A visit to Coors Field begins on Friday and the Colorado Rockies (10-2) are red-hot. With Dempster and Big Z just pitching in the Houston series, we'll get Matt Garza, Casey Coleman and then Dempster again on Sunday. I'm hoping for at least one win and taking the series would be a "bonus."

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