The Brewers were beaten 9-0 in Pittsburgh Monday night, so the Cubs and Milwaukee are once again tied atop the NL Central, three games ahead of the Cardinals.
We would all like to think that Monday afternoon's 12-run fusillade is the beginning of big things for Cub hitters and maybe the trigger of the hot streak that Lou Piniella continues to suggest the Cubs still have in them. But I'm not convinced.
If the first one-hundred-and-forty-three games have demonstrated anything, it's that the Cubs have .500 (maybe .494, maybe .518) written all over them and tatooed in places we can't even see. Our stars aren't able to elevate their teammates with any regularity. And up and down the rest of the roster, we have so many question marks and soft spots--e.g., Cliff Floyd's power, Alfonso Soriano's lead-off skills, Jason Kendall's defense, our middle relief corp's ability to keep a game close, Jacque Jones's...well, Jacque Jones's everything--that the Cubs are vulnerable to having very bad things happen almost any game, against almost any opponent.
So how do we ensure that the final 19 games break our way? I'm looking to Lou to deliver the bold stroke that will shake things up just enough to help the Cubs break the bonds of mediocrity...at least for the final 19 games.
It could be a wrinkle in the batting order (e.g., batting Floyd between Lee and Ramirez, which Lou tried today), giving one of the young guys a shot at the 5th spot in the rotation (which Lou talked about, then backed away from earlier today), or some other creative stunt along the lines of Tony LaRussa's ongoing pitcher-hits-eighth gambit (which didn't prevent the Cardinals from getting gutted at Wrigley Field today, but still...). Whatever it is, Lou has shown himself over many Major League seasons to be a confident, decisive field leader who is capable of turning things in his team's favor, and I am hoping he will be able to do that for the Cubs.
The thing is, without some form of intervention--divine, chemical or managerial--these last weeks of regular season play in the National League Central are going to involve three teams of relatively equal ability in one big round of Russian Roulette. And if something isn't done to alter the odds, I have a unsettling feeling that I know one of the teams who won't come out of it alive.