by Andy Paschen
Here in Chicago, all is right with the world. Black is black, white is white, up is up and down is down. Cats and dogs aren’t living together, there is no mass hysteria. Why? Because the Cubs have officially come out of the gates in the second half like gangbusters, using their wooden swords to cut down any foe stupid enough to cross their path.
Poor, poor Houston. They were hot, people were ready to call them the dark horse of the Central — then they rolled into Wrigley Field and were as flaccid as Michael Jackson in a strip club (it’s never too soon. He was a freak, don’t you forget that). Chicago put 35 runs on them in four games, including two 12-spots in the last two. This is a team that scored 10 runs or more three times in the first half of the season. Since then? They’ve dropped 10 or more four times.
Think about it, in 86 games they scored 10 runs or more three times. They’ve eclipsed that mark in 14 games since the break. Whammy. Literally, that is the sound coming off of the Cubs’ bats. This is the Cubs team people expected to see all year, but we aren’t sure whether or not they are showing their true colors or if this is just a hot streak. I’d like to think the former, but believe it or not the Cubs have burned me a few times in the past.
It’s hard to believe that one player can make a huge impact on an entire team in a sport like baseball, where there really are several I’s in team. But maybe there is more than a kernel of truth that the return of Aramis Ramirez has rejuvenated a previously zombie-like offense. In the past week, the guy has managed to hit at a .520 clip with 4 dingers and 10 RBI. Fancy.
And it’s not just the hitters that are bringing the noise. Both ends of the pitching have been solid, with Randy Wells making a strong case to become the Cubs’ second straight Rookie of the Year, depending on what J.A. Happ does for Philadelphia. (Although because I commit to the Indian, I am required to tell you that though this feat hasn’t been done before Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews were No. 1 and 2 in the ROY award in 2008, which is like the Tiger Slam to the Grand Slam). 7-4 with a 2.84 ERA is something nobody expected from a guy who — and this has been a conversation I have had often with no prompting — as a little something to his stuff that reminds Cubbie faithful of a pitcher they used to have: Greg Maddux. Now I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
Now, with the addition of a few lefty arms from the hapless Pirates — John Grabow and Sloth (more on this later in the day) — the Cubs could be primed to pull away. If I had to guess, I’m thinking the N.L. playoffs will look like this when its all said and done: Dodgers vs. Cubs, Phillies vs. Cardinals. Who is the Wild Card and who is the Division winner? I guess we’ll just have to find out the old fashioned way.