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Rays? Rays.

The Cubs were swept this week for the first time all season. It was also their first 3 game losing streak. They were the last team in baseball to who hadn’t lost more than 2 games in a row. Now, the Cubs did some things poorly in the Rays series. Clutch hitting vanished and defense was not as sharp as Cubs players seemingly couldn’t adjust to six days in a row on turf.

Marmol lost his release point and Lee and Ramirez all but disappeared. Yet, with all of that in mind, I want to suggest that the Cubs simply were beaten by a really good team that plays very well in their home park. Sound familiar Sox fans? Yes, the Rays have a 30–13 record at home, good for third in baseball. The once meager Tampa club trails the Red Sox by a mere game in late June. They are 3.5 games up on the Yankees and might just have what’s necessary to stay in the race for the long haul.

They have the fourth best ERA in the AL at 3.78 and they have a nice stockpile of good young starting pitching (Shields, Kazmir) and offense (Upton, Crawford, Longoria). I wouldn’t bet my cat on them taking the division, but this team is very improved and if the management is willing to spend, the Rays might be a new player in the vaunted AL East for years to come.

Beermakers?

A couple other thoughts…has anyone else been paying attention to the Brewers? Ten days ago they were 8.5 back and only two games over .500; today they’re eight over and six back. Will they be back in the race at some point? Your thoughts?

Quick Props

Mariners RHP Felix Hernandez hit a grand slam in first plate appearance ever. …and then left the game with a twisted ankle? Ah, baseball…

And now…

So. What’s to be said about the Crosstown Classic? For starters… How about yelling “Sweep!” or flying the white “W” flag? Or you could be like my neighbors who still have the blue “L” flag flying pretending as though it’s still last Thursday and sweeping the Pirates is a big deal.

Sox fans, I love you guys… owners of a lifetime inferiority complex. It was on full display this weekend from Kenny Williams’ Happy Anniversary comment, to Ozzie Guillen’s rats comments to Ozzie Guillen’s comments about Edmonds on down to Hawk and DJ’s atrocious call of Saturday’s contest, protesting every close strike that didn’t favor the Sox.

Fellas — it wasn’t Contreras’ walk of Theriot that was the problem in the nine run fourth inning. It was that he gave up five straight hits after the walk, including a base knock to the pitcher and Ramirez’s three run shot.

Sorry Sox fans — I can’t even understand half of what Hawk says when the Sox are losing, mumbling things about duck snorts and hum-dingers. I’d crush myself if I had to listen to that every game. And I thought Santo was emotional…

Anyway, back to the games. The Cubs continue to be a different team at home; if they are down, they’ll come back. If they need good starting, they get it. Now, if they could only take that show on the road. It may be a very different story across town this coming week, and I’m sure the Sox will be ready. They are a good team, and a better team when Guillen can sit and enjoy the DH. He was completely out-managed by Piniella this weekend, fumbling on when to take his starters out (Danks) and not effectively utilizing double-switches.

The Sox are an AL team through and through and it will work to their advantage in their park. The Cubs will have to hope for more surprise contributions from the likes of Eric Patterson and Mike Fontenot as they don’t have a huge bat like Thome sitting on the bench.

A few highlights from the weekend

  • Edmonds hits two home runs in one inning (I’m starting to like this guy, he says the right things and he’s backing it up on the field).
  • Eric Patterson’s 5 hits and his first career HR. More importantly, he scored from first on a single in Sunday’s contest.
  • Dempster improving to 9–2 and 8–0 at home, closing the door on the series and securing the sweep (It’s a rip if he’s not on the All-Star staff this July).

Marmol Marmol

Marmol’s fastball. Everyone knows how vital this young arm has been to the Cubs success this year. That success could start to change if Marmol can’t find his release point. I believe it’s his arm angle; when it drops too low his fastball runs and his slider flattens. Rothschild has been staying up until 3 a.m. every night conducting detailed analysis so Carlos can straighten this out.

Let’s hope it happens sooner than later.

Coming this weekend…

This week brings Part II of the Crosstown Classic and lots more to look forward to: Can the Sox sweep back? Will the Cubs play better on the road? Can they do this without Z for a couple weeks? If the Sox are down, will Hawk Harrelson say anything that remotely resembles color commentary? What do you think?

First, two more with Baltimore. Last night just proved that these Cubbies are never out of the game. I’ll take a loss here and there if we can make a late inning run like that when we need to.

I’ll be in the bleachers tomorrow night. See you there, I’ll buy you an Old-Style.