What a Weekend for Chicago Baseball

Wasn’t it just Thursday or Friday that I was bashing both sides of town for having bad baseball teams?

Well, over the weekend, Chicago baseball accounted for six victories, with the White Sox sweeping the Mariners and the Cubs dominating the Brewers.

The White Sox eeked out three one-run victories over the Mariners, but hey, a win is a win is a win, right?  Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko, and Andruw Jones all homered, with Jones homering twice, one of them being a walk-off shot in the ninth on Friday.

Andruw Jones is surrounded by his teammates after hitting a walk-off homer on Friday night. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

On Saturday, they made it two walk-off winners in a row as Alex Rios did the honors this time.  He did it while Ozzie Guillen watched from his office in the clubhouse after being ejected in the top of the ninth for arguing a call.  Ozzie wasn’t even watching the game.  He was watching a soap opera on Telemundo.

Don’t read into that with anything other than that’s just Ozzie being Ozzie.  I think that reading anything else into that would be a waste of time.

On Sunday it was another late-inning homer, but this time it wasn’t in the ninth.  Konerko hit a blast in the eighth that broke a tie and gave John Danks a win to complete the sweep.

Hey, guess who’s leading the majors in homers?

Pujols?  Nope.  A-Rod?  Definitely not.

It’s the one, the only, Paul Konerko.  I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that Konerko can keep that up all year, but that’s pretty incredible.  Konerko is only 34 (he seems much older than that), and on the downside of his career, but he keeps putting up numbers.  Good for him, he’s one of the good guys.

The Cubs, meanwhile, put a hurting on Milwaukee.  The Brewers came into the series having scored 36 runs in their last three games.  They were outscored 25-4 over the weekend.

The Cubs’ bats broke out in a big way, while their starting pitching was nothing short of spectacular.  They banged out 13 hits on Friday, 10 on Saturday, and 18 on Sunday (easily their season high).  41 hits in four days.  That’s something a lot of Cubs fans probably didn’t think was possible.

They got homers from Kosuke Fukudome (2), Tyler Colvin (2), Geovany Soto, and Derrek Lee.  None of them were cheapies either.

Ryan Theriot had a big series, going 9-for-16, including a 5-for-6 performance on Sunday.  Maybe he’s starting to hear the Starlin Castro whispers.  Or maybe not.

Marlon Byrd continues to impress as well.  He went 5-for-10 over the weekend to raise his average to .338.  It must have been difficult to take him out of the lineup on Sunday so Colvin could get some at-bats, but Colvin made Lou look like a genius.

Even Aramis Ramirez had a couple of hits.  You laugh, but it’s been an absolute struggle at the plate for the guy.  The working theory is that he’s having trouble grasping Rudy Jaramillo’s hitting philosophy.  I think he’s starting to come around, though.  Lou gave him a couple of days off in hopes that he’d work on some things and come back strong, and I think he’s close.  I really do.  Earlier, he was swinging like he was trying to get 10 RBI with one swing.  This past weekend, his swing looked much more controlled (or at least as controlled as an Aramis Ramirez swing can look).

The starting pitching for the Cubs may have been even better than the offense.  Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, and Randy Wells all earned quality starts, and each got a win for their efforts.  Dempster pitched 7.2 innings of one-run ball, Lilly went 6 without giving up a run in his season debut, and Wells went 7, giving up just two runs.  I said in my podcast last week that I thought with those three guys scheduled to pitch, the Cubs had a chance to win the series, maybe sweep.

Thanks, guys, for making me look good for once.

One last story line from the weekend…The Carlos Zambrano experiment is working…so far.  Z came out of the pen on Saturday and pitched 1.1 innings, giving up two hits and a run.  A good performance for the most part, but he only threw 14 of his 26 pitches for strikes.  That’s a ratio that will have to improve.  He even hit a sacrifice fly when his spot came up in the top of the 8th.

I don’t want people to start thinking that Zambrano could be used as a pinch hitter, though.  It’s no secret he loves to hit, but come on, really?  You’d rather see Zambrano coming off the bench to hit when you’re down a run in the ninth than someone like Xavier Nady or Marlon Byrd?  Come on.

Before we get too excited about the possibility of each team going on a tear, let’s bring ourselves back down to earth here.

The White Sox played the Mariners.  While a lot of people think the M’s can contend in that division for a long time, they’re not exactly the Yankees.  They didn’t have to face Cliff Lee, and they missed Felix Hernandez’s turn in the rotation.  They faced decent pitching, but they still needed late-inning heroics to pull out the wins.

While the Cubs’ offensive outburst is promising (there’s no denying that), let’s think about who they faced.  Jeff Suppan somehow still has a job in the Major Leagues (though he just got a demotion to the bullpen), Doug Davis pitched a season-high 6.1 innings on Saturday while actually lowering his ERA to 8.35, and Dave Bush was thrown to the wolves by Ken Macha because his bullpen was so spent.

So now that we have some perspective, let’s just hope that each team can build off their weekend series.  The Cubs open a seven-game homestand with three against the Nationals (Carlos Silva vs. John Lannon tonight), and the White Sox travel to Texas to open a three game set on Tuesday.  They’ll face Rich Harden on Wednesday.


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Filed under Cubs, MLB, White Sox

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