For those of you who have no clue what a Magic Number is, well simply put, any combination of Cubs wins + Milwaukee losses that equal 11 means that the Cubs clinch the NL Central Division Championship and their ticket to the post-season.
But recent performances have every Die-Hard wondering what the stretch run and post season will bring us. Zambrano, Harden & Gaudin needing "rests" because of "dead arms", the somewhat continuous Fukudome hitting slump, and of course, a bullpen that needs drama in every Save opportunity has definitely kept the faint of heart away from watching the 55" TV screens in their homes.
Of course last night (Wednesday) didn't make me feel any better to see Ted Lilly running over Yadier Molina at the plate. Can we really afford to have a starter doing a shoulder block into a guy wearing a mask and pads? Now, in the end, Yadier took the worst of it, but it's just taking too much of a chance with talent we NEED.
But here's my take: The rest of the NL is truly "not good" and as long as the Cubs maintain the best record in the NL, the home advantage is something they haven't really had in the post season (except for 2003 versus the Marlins....D'oh). Even the recent unbelieveable surge by the Astros will likely fall short (my prediction) as Milwaukee does have a good enough team to stay in the Wild Card drivers seat.
But this won't be a walk in the park for the Cubs who have six games left with the Brew Crew, three with the Astros, four with the Mets, and three with the Cardinals. 16 games with only 6 at home. All remaining opponents (except really the Cards) are in a playoff surge. Also the Cubs were told today that the first two games of the Houston series (tomorrow/saturday) have been postponed thanks to Hurricane Ike, which means a double-header on Sunday and a make-up on Monday. BUT this means they come home tonight for a 2-day rest which can only help the "dead arms" and bullpen refresh themselves.
Brian's big concerns with the club:
- Fukudome's continuing slump - we need the speed and slashing bat in the line-up, let's get a shrink in here now!
- DeRosa's continuing blazing path - He's quickly become this generation's Mark Grace and I couldn't be happier, but can he continue this unbelieveable path?
- The Lee-Ramirez "black hole", they continue to struggle at the plate and this was critical in the horrible performance last year versus Arizona. Boys, calm down, you have 7 other capable hitters surrounding you. Just "be the ball".
- The continued, but well documented before he ever came here, Jekyll & Hyde called Alfonso Soriano. He seems to have kept the low-outside flailing swing in check, but his defense stays suspect and last night he "watched" Lilly running into Molina while standing on 2nd rather than advancing to third where he could have been more valuable. Dude, keep your head in the game!!
- The latest "scary" performances by Kid K, Kerry Wood. He's gotten his saves, but he's also blown two. He almost did it again tonight. We need that rock solid that we've NOT had in the past two post-season appearances. It's truly been the weakest link in the club and now that we feel we have it solved, we can't show signs of cracking.
Enough. I'm a Cub fan and I'm beating up on the team I love (which is what we do). Frankly, we need to have the Division clinched by Sep 21 (last home game) because then we can relax and either play spoiler for the Mets and relax through the last week prior to the playoffs.