After losing 5 of their last 6 to the American League in interleague play, the Cubs were happy to return to the National League on Monday. And even better, the National League West, against whom the Cubs were 18-5 coming into last night’s game against San Francisco.
For the Cubs, this year’s NL West is like a big, warm, fuzzy security blanket. And the Giants, for some reason, are bad at home, 14-24 going in.
After looking anemic offensively against the White Sox and (to a lesser degree) the Orioles, they managed to pile on runs against the Giants, but that might be mainly due to facing Barry Zito, who is having a horrible year. He allowed 5 runs (4 earned) in 5 innings, and walked 5, and two of them scored.
But even worse for the Giants, in the eighth inning, they brought in a second relief pitcher, Billy Sadler, who as TV analyst Bob Brenly noted multiple times during the inning, couldn’t throw anything but his fastball for a strike. So the Cubs, showing their newfound patience at the plate, walked the bases full, and then Mark DeRosa, who already had hit a two run homer earlier deep to left-center, whacked a fastball into the same general area for a grand slam.
Ted Lilly (9-5) pitched into the ninth with a shutout, but gave up two hits to the first two batters, and was yanked for Kerry Wood.
So the Cubs are now 19-5 against the NL West, but finished interleague play 6-9 (though they played 9 of those on the road).
Regarding the White Sox series, I’m not sure what more there is to say. They got swept. Aramis Ramirez was 0-for-13. The pitching wasn’t too bad, but gave up just enough home runs to get outscored; that’s how the White Sox score their runs all year. If you shut down the home run, they have lots of trouble scoring. They were unable to do that. At the same time, the offense was pathetic, leaving runners in scoring position over and over again, including 4 runners stranded at 3rd with less than two out just in Saturday’s game alone! That’s a good way to get your butt kicked in a series, and so that’s what they did.
But that’s over now. And one of the great things about baseball, what makes it truly unique among sports, is that there is a new game every day. It really tests mental toughness, to shake off bad stuff, which every team is going to go through at one point or another, for a whole variety of reasons.
And after watching many of those interleague games, I have to offer these conclusions, and I’m not sure which is right, or maybe all of them: (1) the pitching in the AL is much better than the NL pitching, (2) the NL scouting reports on AL pitchers are not as good as the AL scouting reports on NL hitters, or (3) NL hitters take a long time to adjust to new pitchers and parks? I dunno. I’m leaning towards (1). I’m too lazy to sit down with a bunch of stats and prove/disprove it, though.