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Injuries Plague Division Leaders; First Place Still Up For Grabs

Another fantastic week for those Cubbies. Now twenty games over .500 on June 16 for the first time since 1906. Records falling by the wayside weekly, so let’s hope that continues.

Significant injuries for both the Cubs and Cards this week. Cubs lose Soriano and the Birds lose Wainwright and Pujols, yet both teams continue to win. If the Cubs are putting themselves in good position to win the division than St. Louis is putting themselves in good position to practically walk away with the NL wildcard.

Thankfully Yadier Molina only sustained a minor concussion Sunday after a ferocious plate collision with Eric Bruntlett …nobody likes to see that, but it’s part of the game and it sounds like Cardinal personnel didn’t think that Brunlett was out of line.

Anyway…onto a quick Minus/Plus, I’ll leave the collision banter to Doug and Mike.

Minus to: Frank Wren and Bobby Cox

I don’t think young Jeff Bennett threw at Soriano intentionally, but the Braves have a history of calling up guys who can throw strikes and this guy was all over the place. It is the second time in two years that Soriano has been beaned by the Atlanta club. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. Anyway, I don’t give the minus to Bennett, because the guy probably feels bad. No, this minus goes to Braves GM Frank Wren and Manager Bobby Cox. Keep kids like this in AAA please (See: Rich Hill). Can’t throw strikes, can’t stay in the Show.

Minus to: Larry Rothschild

Larry may be doing his best job as pitching coach since 2003, but he needs to step in and tell Lou that he doesn’t need to bring Marmol into every contest. Listen, we’re going to need this guy down the stretch and hopefully beyond, so leave him out of games where we’re up by six runs. If you can’t trust Wuertz or Cotts with a large lead then get someone else up to the big club.

Plus to: Reed Johnson

Reed enjoyed the entire weekend in Toronto sticking to the team that released him. I still can’t believe they waived this guy. He’s a ballplayer, perfect for Piniella’s ‘08 Cubs. Three-run shot against Halladay set the tone for the rest of the weekend and a road series win. I also enjoyed him taking one for the team in the Braves series, a walkoff hit-by-pitch. You gotta love that.

Plus to: beating good pitching

Many times, my buddies and I have discussed in years past the Cubs ability to beat up on weak starters, only to get completely shut down when we face the team’s number one or two. That has changed this year. Earlier the Cubs beat Peavy and Haren; this week they faced Hudson and Halladay and beat them both — a sign of a winning club. Teams that want to win in the playoffs and not just get there, must be able to find a way to beat good pitching. That usually starts with the ability to get on base, and the Cubs continue to do that well.

Plus to: Starters going longer in games

This week we get a complete game from Dempster, Marquis allows one hit through his first seven innings and then Lilly does the same yesterday. Nice to see this.The bullpen gets some rest, and Big Z is reminded that he doesn’t have to carry the entire load. Marquis has had a remarkable June so far; he is 3–0 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts. Don’t be fooled, we still need another starter — as he has been throwing against weak offenses. That said, it’s impressive.

Plus to: Scott Eyre for 32 straight scoreless innings

It’s a franchise record. And he did it without much fanfare. Big time numbers from a small time lefty.

Exciting week ahead. Three with the Rays, who have their best team in their franchise’s short history and then the Crosstown Classic begins…much more on this next week.

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