Given the anticipation of a sweep to open the month, Wednesday night's game was going to feel like a long one anyway. But with a game that saw 25 runs over the course of 4 hours, 19 minutes, it felt as though Steve Trachsel was pitching against himself.
But after two low-scoring games to start the series, the Cubs hit as many home runs (4) in the third game as they had scored runs in the first two. Justin Ruggiano got things started with a 2-run blast in the 1st, then Mike Olt came through with the better of his two typical outcomes, blasting a ball off the signage atop the Monster in the 4th.
Beef Welington (that missing "L" still haunts me) went yard in the 5th and then Nate Schierholtz snuck one over the short right field fence in the 8th, giving him two dingers in the set and leading to me affectionately dubbing him Nate Shortporch. But hey, if it was good enough for Teddy Ballgame...
The Cubs ended with 19 hits, 8 of which came from the bottom 3rd of the order. And half of those came from the much-maligned Darwin Barney, who's surely hearing the exceedingly quick footsteps of Arismendy Alcantara (2-4 with his 11th triple tonight). Of course, Barney tripled as well, coming up just a homer short of the cycle. Natural selection, indeed.
How's this for some fun: every Cubs batter got a least one hit and scored a run on Wednesday, with Starlin Castro and Ruggiano the only players who didn't score twice. Castillo and Chris Coghlan were the only two Cubs with only one hit apiece. That's what we in the baseball intelligentsia like to call "balance."
Conventional Cubs-fan wisdom holds that the team is destined for a drought at this point, but I'm not so sure that's going to be the case. As I recently noted, these guys are playing a lot better of late. And I'm not talking about a 10-game stretch either; the Cubs are now 5 games over .500 in their last 43 contests (24-19).
It's not time to start going bonkers and claiming that the Cubs have completely turned the corner, but I think we can all start feeling a little more positive. At the very least, those folks who've been acting like someone peed in their Cheerios can go ahead and replace that unsavory liquid with some milk. They might want to get new cereal too, and probably a new bowl and spoon. Because I like to set an example for my fellow fickle fans, here's me with my rose-colored glasses:
Cubs playing well, prospects raking, players continue to emerge. Huh, kinda feels like this thing might be working. — Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) July 3, 2014
So I used qualifiers like "kinda" and "might," (these are still the Cubs we're dealing with, after all), but this whole long-term vision thing is starting to come into focus. It's like when the optometrist is checking your vision, asking what's better: number 1 or number 2.
The Cubs aren't going to be anywhere near number 1 for quite some time, but at least they're not looking like number 2 anymore. Speaking of, I feel obliged to share with you a story of the time my son embarrassed/amused me a couple years ago. You'll indulge me this tangential break, won't you? Thanks.
In what was probably not my best parenting decision, I taught my young son euphemisms like "laying a log" and "dropping a deuce." What can I say, at least he's not a Purdue fan. Anyway, he also had this little tablet game that taught sounds; it would show "_og" and then have three letters to the side, say "d," "f," and "l."
My father-in-law was over and Ryne (probably 3 at the time) was sitting in his lap and playing the game while I'm in the other room. I hear the game say: "L. Log," after which my son blurts out: "A log is a deuce." "What? A log is a duece," comes grandpa's response. "Yeah, a log is a duece."
I didn't really have the chance to be mortified because I had to jam a dishtowel in my mouth to keep from cackling like a hyena at what I just heard. My wife's dad seemed to be oblivious of the reference, so all was well. But back to the lecture at hand.
The Red Sox don't have a great record on the season (at 38-47, they're only 1 game ahead of the Cubs), but they had won 10 of 12 at Fenway heading into this series. Besides, many had anointed the Cubs the worst team in baseball after the first month, even wrote it in the wet cement of the young season.
Lucky for us, Ricky Renteria saw that and came by with his trowel to wipe up that careless vandalism. Perhaps that's heaping too much credit on the rookie skipper's shoulders, but what else has changed from last season? Same ownership, same front office, same weak lineup.
Yet the Cubs are finding ways to win, be it a dominant Jake Arrieta start, timely hitting by the heart of the order, or a 16-run outburst to make up for yet another lethargic Travis Wood outing. This team has got holes, to be sure, but now it's at least looking more like a slotted spoon than a sieve (thanks, @CubicSnarkonia).
Now the Cubs get a day off before starting a stretch of 11 games in 10 days heading into the All-Star break, where at least one of them will likely be snubbed (my money's on Rizzo, since I predicted a long time ago that he'd make it). Fitting that they'll play the Nationals in Washington over the holiday weekend, but then they've got 5 in Cincy before heading home to close the half with 3 against the Braves.
Those next 3 opponents are a combined 19 games over .500, so this will be a true test of the reality of the Cubs good play of late. If nothing else, it's been fun to see glimpses of the future peeking through like so much sterling silver beneath a heavy patina.
Here's to hoping the Cubs continue to polish, perhaps to the point that we can start removing qualifiers from talk of their success.
Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman
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