After beating the Rockies 6-4, the Cubs have now swept two teams in a row, at home. The Cubs are now 1 game under .500 after going 16-10 in the month of June so far. No matter what happens this weekend, this will be the Cubs’ first winning month under Lou Pinella. But this weekend is big, no doubt about it. As good as the Cubs have played lately, the Brewers have been better.
"As much of a hot streak as we’ve been on, they’ve been on the same thing and we haven’t been able to pick up any ground," said third baseman Mark DeRosa, "We have held serve and still find ourselves in a pretty big hole [at 7 1/2 behind]. At least going into the All-Star break we need to put a dent in it."
DeRosa is right. This weekends series could not be any bigger. 7 1/2 games is still a lot of ground to make up. After two sweeps, the Cubs cannot tighten up this weekend. They need to keep playing smart baseball, keep control of their emotions, and stay focused. They need to be aggressive and not walk any batters. Not against the pop that Milwaukee has in its lineup. You can give up a solo home run, but you can’t give up those leadoff walks that end up costing you. The Cubs are 5-4 against Milwaukee, but lost their only home series versus the Brew Crew.
The Two Stars of June
The Cubs recent hot streak has been sparked by two polar opposite players. The first is Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano is 4-1 with a 1.43 earned-run average since he knocked out Barrett. On Wednsday, he allowed two runs on five hits over six innings. Zambrano’s nine victories tie him with nine other pitchers for most wins. Only four pitchers have more wins, all four of them on first place teams. Zambrano is 6 foot 5 two hundred and sixty pounds of raw emotion. He is an exciting player to watch, and when he is on his game, there is nobody better.
The other player that is making a dent is second baseman Mike Fontenot. Hitting out of the 2 spot and playing second, Fontenot’s hot bat has been sparking this Cubs offense. Fontenot hit a monster 415-foot solo home run in the fourth. He was 3-for-4 on the day, also hitting a double and scoring two runs. Fontenot is batting .450 (18-for-40) during his current career-high 10-game hitting streak, has hit safely in 17 of 18 games since being called up from Triple-A Iowa on June 9.
"Hats off to Mike Fontenot," DeRosa said. "What he’s doing is unbelievable. To come up here and hit .400, that’s not even fathomable, to be honest with you. Every third-base coach has asked me, ‘Who is this guy? What the heck is going on?’ He’s in a zone right now, but when you look at his numbers, he has hit all his life."
Zambrano added after seeing Fontenot’s home run
"I didn’t know short men could hit the ball like that. He hit the ball like a man, you know?"
All joking aside, Fontento is the opposite of Zambrano. He is quiet and modest, he is the smallest Cubs on the roster at 5’8, 170 pounds, but what he lacks in size, he makes up with heart and ability. He defense has been spectacular, his offense has been out of the world, and he plays smart fundemental baseball. He works counts, takes nice swings at the plate, advances runners, and has speed.
Fontenot arrived in Chicago on February 3rd, 2005 as part of the Sammy Sosa trade. Fontenot was traded to the Cubs along with 2B/OF Jerry Harriston and RHP Dave Crouthers for Sammy Sosa. It Fontenot is the only remaining player from that trade that is still on the Cubs. He has been the most pleasant surprise of 2007.
During the Cubs’ rough first two months of the season, Pinella looked like he was in a daze. He looked like he was visiting a new planet. Lou has been around baseball a long time in his life, but he had never been around Cub Baseball, which is totally different from the baseball that everyone else plays. But after the Barrett-Zambrano brawl, and Lou’s eruption and ejection the next day which led to a suspension, Lou has taken control of this team. He has the right mix of young guys along with seasoned veterns. He has added more speed and defense to this team with young guys like Pie, Fontenot, Theriot, and Angel Pagan. He has brought up some young arms like Marmol, Sean Marshall, and others who have done a great job. Guys are picking each other up. When Ramirez was out, DeRosa filled in. With Dempster out, Howry and Marmol have helped out. It helps that Lou cleaned up that mess in right field, and he is weeding out the players who need to go or cut down their playing time significantly; Jacque Jones, Barrett, Scott Eyre. Everything is slowly starting to come together.
So now the true to test of the Cubs’ character comes this weekend. The Brewers have been unbelieveable. They lead the division by 7 1/2 games and have been impressive. They had a slight drop off in May, but so did the Cubs. Except for a little cold streak, the Brewers are rolling. Everyone thought they would have faded by now, and they still have time to fade away, but it is time for the Cubs to make a statement. All the Cubs nned to do is win games, not hope the Brewers lose games.It is really important for them to win this series, and really get something started. After the Brewers, the Cubs start a road trip with four against Washington before finishing the first half with three against Pittsburgh. If they can win 2 of 3 against the Brewers, they could go on a little tear going into the All Star Break. I will be at the game Sunday, so let’s hope for a winning weekend. Are the baseball gods finally on the Cubs side? How about three sweeps in a row?!