Tonight kicks off a nine game home stand for the Cubs and we sure could use some good news at the end of it.
Against three of the lowest representations of major league talent the league has to offer, the Mets, Astros and Pirates come into Wrigley this week for three games a piece. Are they catching the Cubs at a good time? Absolutely. The injury list up to this point of the season tallies up key losses: Wells, Cashner, Soto, Garza, Byrd and Baker. All of them were supposed to contribute an extreme amount to the Cubs drive to a winning season. And now? None of them more than likely, will be available for any of the three series.
Their replacements? Russell, Davis, Coleman, Castillo, Hill, DeWitt, Johnson and for however brief a period of time, Montanez.
Talk about a needing your bench and back up guys to step up and play hero for a stretch of time. The Cubs came into 2011 with a starting rotation of three solid starters and then two guys we were hoping we’d have at least .500 records from come the end of the season. Dempster was about to get his turn in the ‘let me be the ace’ rotation that he’s taken a back seat previous years to guys like Lilly and Zambrano. Zambrano came off as a bigger head case than Mr. Potato Head last season and no one was really sure what to expect in 2011. Sure his second half of 2010 was impressive, but it had to be in order to help make you forget about the first half. Garza came in like the hot girlfriend that moves into your place that you think it’s good idea to have her around and you think there’s great potential. Thing is, she’ll only move in if you get rid of a bunch of your stuff. Some of those things are harder to let go of than others but you give it a shot because hey…this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. And then there was Wells and Cashner. Wells treated us to a ‘See’ season in 2009 and then the frightening ‘Saw’ season in 2010. Unsure of where 2011 was headed after Spring Training, he earned the number four spot in the rotation after doing enough in the pre-season. Same with Cashner who essentially stepped up long enough to yell ‘shotgun’ to get the five spot considering the other possibilities had stat lines in Spring that yelled ‘not it’.
It wasn’t but two weeks into the season and Wells and Cashner were gone leaving only what turned out to be a shaky Demp and high in the ERA, low in the crazy Zambrano (which yes, we’ll take if it leads to wins yet may not be as entertaining). Garza has put up an impressive amount of strike outs however they haven’t translated into too many wins on the days he pitches. And NOW, Garza is out with tightness in his throwing arm, his elbow concern pulling him from the series finale at Fenway. I feel like if we had Garza on Sunday, we would have taken the series against the Sox and team would feel great heading back to Wrigley for this homestand.
However, we didn’t have him. We didn’t win the series and on top of it all…while our pitching became furhter comprimized, our line-up took some shots as well. One of them literally, as Byrd took a fastball to his left eye socket and is out indefinitely. The other being Baker who pulled up lame turning a shot to the wall in Boston into a double (capped off with an injury induced, ugliest slide I think I’ve ever seen).
The players that are on the DL were key pieces in Quade’s plan for success. He now must make due with a make shift line up of bench players and spot starters. The team needs help and they can only look to their bench and their bullpen. No one else is going to get it done. They have to step up and help each other out until the expected superstars of the team get back.
The good thing for this week is, the opponents are in a similar position. The Mets have what they were pitching as superstars in their pre-season ticket sales push, only in recent days their owner has come out and trashed the faces of the franchise. Wilpon said that Reyes is essentially an injury waiting to happen that will never get star money, that Wright has a nice smile and an ok back of a baseball card but is no ‘superstar’ and while they have to pay Beltran 100% of the money due to him, he’s only offering 60-75% of his former self day in and day out because he’s simply not the talent he once was. They have suffered injuries in the rotation and made up for it by signing arms from the land of misfit pitchers hoping for the best. This team is in no better shape than the Cubs, especially with key players like Wright, Santana, Pagan and Ike Davis on the shelf with injuries. They too are looking for help from within.
The Astros are struggling and holding down the fort they’re having fun building in the basement of the NL Central and surprisingly, the Pirates of all teams will probably end up being the toughest team we face on the homestand. I still can’t believe we are behind them in the standings. At the end of the day though, they are still the Pirates and they can always use all the help they can get.
I believe we are still at a slight advantage given the talent we have as backups and the fact that we’re at home for these games. I expect a record of 7-2. Anything less than that will be a missed opportunity to make up some ground this week in the Central (as long as the Cards cooperate of course). To play us out, I submit this tune as the soundtrack of the upcoming nine game homestand. Enjoy…and Go Cubs Go!