Breathe easy, defenders of the North Side. No tongue-lashings in store from White Sox fans yet. If the way the Cubs have taken care of the Sox so far this year hasn't made you feel proud of your team, maybe a likely sweep will do the trick.
The Red Line Rivalry has produced it's own highlight reel so far and it's mostly because the Cubs are back home and the middle of the order-especially Aramis Ramirez-has become dependable once again. Ram-Ram's (as I've recently begun calling him) three blasts have been tremendous and have established the third baseman as a Sox killer.
It's always nice when you beg your 3 and 4 hitters to start getting the job done again and they deliver. Would it be nice for them to deliver on the road for once? Sure. But if the Cubs don't lose more than 20 games at home all season and stay .500 on the road, I'll take it. That's still around 100 wins.
This series has really exposed the Cubs' strengths and the Sox weaknesses. The truth of the matter is that the Sox have an overall better pitching staff but their dominance has been hampered by a lack of timely hitting. Friday's game with the walk-off homerun showed the Cubs have better timely hitting. (what could be more timely than a walk-off home run?) The best part is that if this had been any other year, I'd never be saying that about the Cubs.
The Cubs have also made a strong pitching staff look week so far. I know Jose Contreras has had some rough outings of late and that left-handers are crushing him, but the way the Cubs hammered Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink and Boone Logan has been astounding.
Of course this series has also revealed some of the Cubs' biggest concerns. Aside from the news of Zambrano, which is positive considering the alternative, the Cubs clearly have no go-to reliever at the moment except their closer. Carlos Marmol has a huge adjustment to make so he doesn't walk the bases loaded again, Scott Eyre has been ripped all over the place his last few outings, and Bob Howry gave up a run yesterday. If you're Lou Pinniella, who do you trust in the late innings of a one-run game right this moment? I can't say. Since Marmol is the Cubs most prized relief weapon, he needs the most care and attention. Seasoned vets like Howry and Eyre need to make the adjustments faster.
The other concern is those nagging Cardinals. They don't ever go away and while I'd like to believe they won't keep it up all year, I'd rather they just start losing, fast. For those of you that check the standing every day, all you've been seeing is 3 Â½. It's getting old and that series at Busch 4th of July weekend is looking awfully critical as a result. As great as the Cubs have played of late minus the Tampa Bay series, it's extremely discerning to know that if the Cubs 1-2 record at Busch this season should get worse, that their hold over the central will take a big hit.
In the meanwhile, Ryan Dempster being back at Wrigley in a sweep opportunity looks like a good game to tune into this evening. If Demp is strong yet again at Wrigley Field, Cub fans can go into the week a bit more optimistic with Zambrano missing a start on Tuesday.