Hey, we could be playing the Royals instead...
So, the first Interleague series is in the books. It might be better if it wasn't, as the weekend allowed the Cardinals to open up a little more breathing room given their fierce competition against the Royals at the same time.
The Cubs series was punctuated with the season's hallmarks so far: 2-out RBIs, bullpen collapses, and Dusty Baker's enigmatic managerial style. Rather than go through game by game straight-up, I've got some winners and losers for the weekend. But first, to warm up, some beloved stats and observations.
The series scoring broke fairly evenly, with the White Sox on top 13-8. Of the 11 series runs coming with two outs, the split was 6-5 Southside.
- Starting Pitching Fun
The Cubs trio (Maddux, Zambrano, Prior) threw an average of 14.74 pitches per Inning, while the White Sox (Freddy Garcia, Contreras, McCarthy) tossed 13.35 PPI.
As it breaks down:
White Sox - 258 pitches, 168 strikes, 76 batters faced (Avg. 3.40 pitches per Batter)
Cubs - 339 pitches, 212 strikes, 89 batters faced (Avg. 3.80 PPB)
So what does all this mean? It could mean a plethora of things, depending on your interpretation. The Cubs 3 threw 23 innings of work compared to 19 1/3 from the White Sox, the difference coming on Sunday when McCarthy left after 5 1/3 while Prior tossed a complete game.
Dusty seems to be gravitating more towards an old-school approach - screw the concept of middle relief, and let your starters go as deep as their arms will allow, while completely disregarding the pitch counts. (If you count Rusch's effort vs. Houston last night, which I will get to later on, he went 8 Innings, throwing 108-69, facing 29: 3.74 PPB ... not bad for a part-time starter and bullpen guy)
While it could be a smart move in the interim to ride the hot pitching and get the team back on track, the idea of exhausting the starting rotation because you don't necessarily trust your bullpen on a daily basis isn't entirely wise. The only way to improve their confidence and collective team faith in their abilities is to let them pitch and figure it out, as opposed to hiding them in the dugout all night while Glendon Rusch pops his tendons out with every change-up.
It's just something to think about - I'm curious to hear any other interpretations of this emerging trend. Look for LB to bust out the PPB and PPI stats a bit more from now on, if they mean anything at all.
Winners and Losers : Jimi Hendrix "Cross-Town Traffic" Edition
1. Paul Konerko, 1B
The burly White Sock socked more than his fair share over the series, batting 5-12 with a HR, 4 RBI and 2 R. It represented the best of a balanced Southside offense, and it also showed Konerko's best D-Lee impression (2-9, RBI, R this weekend).
2. Joe Borowski, RP
Return of the Joe! The Massive Messiah himself took the mound for real on Friday night, and managing to give the Cubs something to cheer about on an otherwise disappointing evening. He pitched a scoreless, hitless 9th inning, tossing 14 pitches (9 strikes) in a 1-2-3 outing. While the Cubs still lost, Borowski's assured and fire-throwing performance gives the bullpen a new saviour, and hopefully one that can perform and even close in tandem with the steadying Ryan Dempster.
3. Mark Prior, SP
Despite excellent pitching performances all round this weekend on both sides
Freddy Garcia: 7 IP, 5 H, BB, 3 K
Jose Contreras: 7 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 4 K
Carlos Zambrano: 7 IP, H, 3 BB, 8 K (Took a no-hitter into the 5th)
to name but 3, Mark Prior is the 3rd Foxiest Lady this series witnessed. Surrounded by a scrappy and gutsy performance by the offense, Prior saw just enough runs scratched out by the Cubs lineup to keep him in the hunt, tossing the complete game (6 H, 3 ER, 7 K) to steal a win from the Southside. He was calm, he was fiery, he was Zambrano-esque, pitching with emotion and heart and getting himself out of any trouble he cared to get himself in for the full 9 innings. Simply superb, and I hope that Wood and Wuertz were watching and taking notes before they turn it around.
CASTLES MADE OF SAND
1. Juan Uribe, 2B/SS
Poor Juan. Perhaps the only Sock to Suck with the bat overall, he enjoyed a wonderful 0-11 performance, striking out 3 times and leaving 5 men on base during his time at the plate. Perhaps a call from an equally lacklustre Jose Reyes in Queens, NY might help -- the two could learn a lot from each other.
2. Michael Wuertz, RP
Leave it to the Cubs bullpen to produce the ugliest line of the series:
2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER
Wuertz relished his time on the Wrigley mound, taking 22 pitches to undo the stellar work of El Toro's 108-pitch flirt with perfection. Squandering the Cubs lead, he gave the undeserving White Sox yet another win and gave the Cardinals a little bit more breathing room in the division standings.
His outing had it all - strikeouts, two consecutive infield singles to Hairy and Neifi respectively (wake-up, Guys) before Konerko brought them home with a single that actually cleared the infield. Leaving the game immediately thereafter, Will Ohman gave Wuertz something else to think about, allowing the inherited runner to score on a Carl Everett double and adding more misery to Michael's precious stats.
The Inning ended with a third pitcher used, and gave the White Sox 4 runs on 5 hits, enough to win and ruin Zambravo's hard work.
3. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Perhaps still troubled by spasms and nightmares of being replaced by Jose Macias in the lineup, our tubby Third Bagger suffered through a difficult weekend, going 1-10 and leaving 5 on base in the process. His average slid to .238 on the season, and the specters of the "Moises Alou/Sammy Sosa Farewell Party" are still hovering a little. Perhaps. His offense is struggling, and as we've all said before, the fate of the season rests on shoulders like his. This slump won't last (3-19, 0 RBI last week), but it doesn't help when you're playing "The Best Team in Baseball" (shhh, I hope I never have to say that again).
Still to come this afternoon, perhaps:
- Cub o' the Week -- whose cuisine reigned supreme?
- The Cubs week Ahead: (Houston + Colorado)*Wrigley = Easy?
- News (if I can find any)