Monday, June 27, 2005

Squared Up

Three games apiece.

That's what it came down to now that the annual Windy City series is complete. After all the bravado from both sides of town, it's all even. And though the season isn't quite technically halfway over just yet, this is a good time for both the White Sox and Cubs to take stock and look ahead.

If you're a White Sox fan, there is no reason to panic after being shut out by Mark Prior and his remarkably healed elbow. There is no shame in being befuddled by Prior, whether he's pitching on three days rest or a month. When he's healthy and he's on, Prior is as good a pitcher as baseball has to offer, possibly the best even.

Mark Buehrle's spot in the Sox rotation didn't come up in either Sox-Cubs series, meaning the Cubs slid through without facing the Sox ace.

John Garland was nearly as filthy as Prior on Sunday, allowing just one earned run in 8.1 innings. It looks like you can add "big game pitcher" to his ever-improving resume.

The AL Central lead over the Twins still stands at 9 1/2 games.

Does the Sox-Cubs mean alot? It sure does. However, yesterday's loss was only one game in June. That's the bottom line. This week the Sox head to Detroit and Oakland. The Tigers are quietly a .500 team, and you know an Alan Trammell team will be tough. Always. And Oakland is traditionally a dark hole of sorrows for the Sox.

In other words, it's time to soldier on.

Brandon McCarthy, the twig-like 21-year old, has a few starts ahead in place of the ailing El Duque, and the Sox need to see what he has to offer in the immediate. His potential is already well documented, but another starter aquired via trade is a distinct possibility if the kid isn't quite ready to deal. This must be sorted out.

Meanwhile, the Cubs have much to feel good about as they emerged from the series two games above .500, a mere 2 1/2 games out in the wild-card race, and with a healthy, and absolutely filthy, Prior. Kerry Wood is also expected to return soon, and barring an ingrown toe nail or a bad haircut, he presumably will be around for the stretch run. But you never know.

The heat Dusty Baker has taken in this town is ridiculous. All the guy has done is keep the Cubs in the playoff race - yet again - while trotting out guys like John Koronka to start games? Who the $%#@ is John Koronka?

Baker has yet again proven to be one of the game's best managers, regardless of how many times the Cubs have been given up for dead.

With Derrek Lee having a season for the ages, Jeromy Burnitz quietly doing his thing, and Aramis Ramirez doing what was expected when he signed his new contract, the Cubs suddenly look very formidable in the National League. The Cardinals may be out of reach in the Central, but the wild-card spot is very attainable. If the Cubs grab it, well, anything is possible in a playoff series with a healthy Prior, Wood, Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano, and even the highly underrated Glendon Rusch heading out to the mound in a five- or seven-game series.

Yet assholes like Jay Mariotti will rip Baker. Fuckin' sad.

The bottom line is that baseball in Chicago is looking pretty damn good for the second half of the season. A White Sox-Cubs World Series may be as likely as interplanetary war, but should both teams make it to the playoffs...

Hey, why not?


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