This year, the Cubs have gotten an early jump on their acronym (Completely Useless By September) and walked into Busch to face a team that really need to take care of business. At least on Friday, that business was taken care of.
You have to figure there was a ton of pressure on Edwin Jackson last night, but he held up under the strain beautifully. There had to be a segment of the fan base there ready to boo if he didn't pitch well, taking out their frustrations of a trade that they didn't approve of.
Jackson, save a bit of trouble in the second, never really gave them the opportunity. How can you not like seven innings, one run, four strikeouts and two walks? It was interesting to see a flamethrower on the mound to start a game as well. We've seen 97 or so out of the pen often enough from Jason Motte in particular, but that's not exactly Jake Westbrook's game, for example.
Of course, again, you don't want to read too much into one start. The Cubs aren't exactly a dominant force, as noted, and they lost one of their bigger weapons earlier in the week when they traded Kosuke Fukudome. Jackson will go again in the Milwaukee series and we'll get a better feel for what we have then.
Even though the game was well in hand after a eighth inning uprising (more on that in a second), there was still a reason to hang around. After doubling in the second, Albert Pujols needed one hit to get to the nice, round number of 2000. There seemed little doubt that, when the man puts his mind to it, it's going to happen and he smoked another double off of Carlos Marmol in his last at-bat, creating prolonged cheers and a couple of tips of his batting helmet to the fans. Who knows if Cardinal fans will be able to help him mark other occasions. Reactions like that, though, can't hurt when it comes this offseason. Congrats to Pujols on such a milestone. Now, go get 1631 more in a Cardinal uni--I think Stan Musial would be OK with that.
There really was only one blemish on last night's game, and that was Kyle McClellan's season debut from the bullpen. McClellan only got one out, allowed a run, and left with runners on second and third. A base hit in that situation would have made it 6-4 with the tying run at the plate, but Motte came in and snuffed out the rally. I'm sure it'll take a little bit of time for McClellan to get back into the reliever mindset. I wouldn't be surprised to see him either this afternoon or Sunday night, to get him back on the horse and get him realizing that he can come in at any time.
Joe Strauss has Tweeted that the Cards are likely to make a "difference-maker" move before the deadline. That apparently means (assuming John Mozeliak isn't in super-secret stealth mode) Rafael Furcal, who is having an off year but some of the sabermetric types believe that the underlying numbers are solid and he should be in line for a bounce back. That's well beyond my knowledge and ability, so I'll take their word for it. I would think that Furcal would be a fairly low-cost option, plus Milwaukee has been looking in on him, so if they are able to swipe him before the Brewers do, that could be a double win.
Now, apparently those talks may have lit a fire under the incumbent, because Ryan Theriot got two hits last night (though he also played some second base). Could this be a lot of talk just to see what happens? I'd be surprised. It's obvious that the Cardinals are pushing hard to win this year. I don't think they are gambling that some sort of psychological warfare will help them get the Theriot they hoped they were trading for in the offseason. I'd be a little surprised if the Cards don't wind up with Furcal, but we have about 29 hours to find out.
(Interestingly, though, Theriot didn't play shortstop last night, getting in at second base after pinch hitting, his first time on that side of the bag. Daniel Descalso started there and eventually Tyler Greene, who came up when the Cards put Nick Punto on the DL yesterday, got some time there. Take that for what it's worth.)
Cards and Cubs are the Fox Game of the Week, meaning a nice 3:10 start on a July afternoon in St. Louis. Glad I'll watch that one from my air-conditioned home, I've got to say. Kyle Lohse was pushed back a day and makes the start here, as we'll see whether the finger is going to be much of an issue. Lohse looked pretty good last time out, but was only out there five innings. Here's his line against the Cubbies:
Alfonso Soriano has done well against him in the past, though some of those numbers might be from back when Soriano was a force. Aramis Ramirez will be the one to really focus on, but since he's the biggest problem in the lineup anyway, that's not a big surprise.
Rodrigo Lopez goes for the Cubs. He's only thrown one inning against the Birds this year and they scored against him, so maybe they can pile up some more runs today. Here's his career numbers:
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ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball