Chicago played much better in Los Angeles these past 3 days. Strong, and almost crucial starts by Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano kept the Cubs creeping back towards the .500 mark. James Russell again struggled in his start. Mike Quade and the rest of the Cubs management are now reconsidering whether Russell should continue to fill the role of the fifth starter.
The offense is now showing signs of life as well. Alfonso Soriano hit his league-leading 11th home run of the season in the series opener. The Cubs can only hope his success will be spread throughout the ball club. Geovany Soto collected the game-winning RBI on Tuesday night, and added a solo home run Wednesday afternoon. Also going yard in the series was Carlos Pena, who hit his first and second home runs in a Cub uniform. It is always a good sign when a player hits those first few home runs. Bob Brenly mentioned on the CSN broadcast this afternoon that it can get in your head if you are in a home run drought, but once you hit one, and get the feeling back, a hot streak is often the result.
Young infielder Darwin Barney is also continuing to turn heads. A .324 average has surpassed double play partner Starlin Castro who has dropped to a respectable .313. All indications are positive for the near future, as starting pitchers Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner are set to return within the month, and the offense is starting to break out of its early season funk. The Cubs will try to continue to improve their record on Friday as the second-place Reds come to Wrigley Field for a weekend series.
Cincinnati will finish out their current homestand tomorrow afternoon against the Astros before heading to Chicago.
Friday’s Probables: Matt Garza (1-3, 3.96 ERA), Edinson Volquez (2-1, 5.67 ERA)
Garza comes off another solid start for the Cubs, although he lacks run support, and faces Volquez in the series opener on Friday.
Saturday’s Probables: Casey Coleman (1-2, 7.36 ERA), Bronson Arroyo (3-3, 4.17 ERA)
Coleman took a tough loss in Arizona where he didn’t pitch poorly, but was less than spectacular. Arroyo threw 7 innings in a loss to Florida on Sunday.
Sunday’s Probables: Ryan Dempster (1-3, 8.05 ERA), Johnny Cueto (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
A no-decision in his last start, his best of the season to date, Dempster looks to keep improving and shrug off any more of his early problems. Cueto is making his season debut for Cincinnati, coming off two mediocre rehab starts in AAA Louisville.