That’s the idea, just keep winning series. Going undefeated is obviously ridiculous, as is winning every series, but taking 2 out of 3 from opponents on a consistent basis is the best way to prepare for playoff baseball. The Cubs took their first series of the season, beating the Houston Astros Wednesday night 11-6.
The Cubbies didn’t get much going offensively against Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, and the Astros bullpen, but they immediately set the tone tonight. The first 7 batters reached base (6 on base hits), as the Cubs lit starter Brian Moehler up for 4 first inning runs.
There was no letting up in the second inning, as the Cubs mounted a two out rally that chased Moehler with runners on first and third and a 5-0 deficit. Mike Fontenot knocked Russ Ortiz’s first pitch over the right field fence for an 8 run lead, and the Cubs were comfortable the rest of the way.
The offensive attack was led by the aforementioned Fontenot and third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Each had 4 RBI’s, and they combined to go 6-11. I’m telling you, if Mike Fontenot is available in your fantasy league, pick the man up. He’s going to get the start probably 75% of the time, he’s hit every chance he’s had at the big league level, and he’s in a lineup that’s going to protect him and give him ample RBI chances all year long.
The most encouraging performance at the plate was by center fielder Kosuke Fukudome. Fukudome reached base in 5 out of 6 plate appearances, had four hits, a double, a homerun, and a steal. No one is expecting him to carry this club, but if he can provide a viable bat in the two hole against righties, he could be huge for this club.
Really the only troublesome spots in the lineup in this series were the 3 and 4 hole. Derrek Lee managed only 2 hits in 13 AB’s, but he did knock in 2. Lee is one guy I will be watching early this year for any further decline. He’s no spring chicken, and the last two years have seen his power numbers fall. Lefty Micah Hoffpauir is begging for some AB’s, and if he struggles, we could see significantly more off days for D-Lee, especially against righties. The only Cub regular not to notch a hit in the first series is freshly signed Milton Bradley. I’m not too concerned about his hitting coming around, though, as long as he’s in the lineup.
On the mound, it was a unique kind of game for the Cubs pitchers. Starter Ted Lilly was bestowed with a big 8-0 lead after an inning and a half, so there was no reason for him to try to make perfect pitches. He attacked the zone and was willing to let guys hit the solo homerun rather than clog up the base paths.
The Astros certainly did take Ted Lilly up on that. They hit four homers off of him, all but one of which were solo efforts. Lilly only lasted 5 innings, giving 5 earned runs on 8 hits, picking up the win. Rookie David Patton replaced him, and promptly gave up a homerun to the first batter he faced in the Majors, Hunter Pence. After that, though, Astros batters managed only 2 hits off of Patton, Carlos Marmol (who I wish had pitched the 10th last night instead of tonight), and Angel Guzman.
The Cubs pitchers pitched the way you are supposed to with a big lead: aggressively. They did not fear the solo jack, and they did not walk an Astro all night, which I was very pleased to see.
The Cubs now travel to Wisconsin to play the Milwaukee Brewers, and Rolf will have you covered with a full preview before first pitch on Friday. The Cubs will continue their tour of very mediocre starting pitching from opposition, facing Braden Looper, Dave Bush, and Jeff Suppan. Like Brian Moehler, they don’t exactly strike fear in your heart, especially when you consider the Cubs will counter with fourth starter Rich Harden, Carlos Zambrano, and Ryan Dempster.