Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Game Notes 17: Ownership Has Its Privliges
During six starts against New York from 2001-2003, Kerry Wood has posted a 3-1 record, with 24 hits, 3 home runs, 19 walks, 42 strikeouts and a 1.71 ERA in 42 innings. Today, his domination continued with a stellar seven inning shutout performance, allowing only 4 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 9 helpless Minions...er...Mets. Kent Mercker and LaTroy Hawkins finished the job, and the Cubs got a 3-0 victory, extending their win streak to five.
I don't know if the extra days off helped Kerry get over the workload from his previous outing, and right now I don't care. While my point from the other day still holds, and is more about understanding the possible risks involved with particular usage patterns than predicting an outcome, I'm not so pig-headed as to root for a bad outing from Wood just to feel like I called it. He was awesome. I'm happy. That's all.
Okay, that's not really all. Here are a few bits and pieces I'm tacking on with the obligatory bullet points.
The Cubs have outscored their opponents 35-4 on this trail of triumph leading from game 13 to 17, and it's all eerily familiar. In 2003, the Cubs won five consecutive games - numbers 14 to 18 - and beat their foes by a combined score of 50-11. Coincidence? Sure. Meaningless? You bet. Fun? Absolutely.
In the top of the fifth, we got to see one of those little things that make watching this game so fun. Vance Wilson hit a high chopper to the left side, and it was clear from the moment the ball first leapt from the dirt that, despite his catcher's speed, any play at first would be mighty close.
The defensive protagonist in this bit of fun was the shortstop for the day, Ramon Martinez, and he handled himself brilliantly, moving under the ball and preparing all the way to barehand and throw. He got his feet set up, moved into position to grab the ball with his arm already cocked, snatched it out of the air and fired toward first with grace and assurance, as if he had been expecting it since yesterday.
The play itself was of little consequence. It saved a baserunner, and perhaps a few extra pitches on Kerry Wood's arm, but it was unlikely to change the game's outcome. Yet, it was one of those little moments of poetry that make so many of us pay attention as closely as we do. I know I spew a lot of numbers here, but they are simply a means to an end, a way to further explain what I see on the field. They are not what make me love this game. It's barehanded throws to first executed in a single motion after catching a ball in midair, and a thousand other things like it that spur my passion, and that's the way it should be.
I'll be curious to read the fishwrap rabble's take on LaTroy Hawkins finishing the game, especially since all threemajorpapers did a piece on Joe Borowski's struggles thus far and how yesterday's 1-2-3 outing should help him because the problem's all in his head.
Dusty's postgame pronouncement was that he was doing it because of the matchups, with the ESPN wrapup implying that the last three hitters' AL origins - Hawkins league until this year - were a factor as well. However, if one of the components in the decision was the hitters' previous league, wouldn't it make more sense to send out a pitcher those guys hadn't seen before? Dusty said not to read anything into it, and that Borowski's his closer, but if I'm jumping on this, what do you think the Chicago press will do?
There's a chance for a sweep tomorrow, but we have to get past Al Leiter to do it, and it's also an opportunity to match last season's longest winning streak. I can't think of a better way to enter a new week and a matchup with Randy Johnson than to beat another tough left-hander to extend the Major's longest current victory string. Let's see some brooms, fellas, it's time to clean house!
UPDATE: I had apparently double posted this, and had gotten one comment on each. I've republished the post and consolidated the comments verbatim, and in the order they were posted, although the post times are different from the original. - The Management