The Nationals series was, for the Cubs, all about vibes: dispelling the bad ones left from the first half, and replacing them with good ones. I think the mission was mostly accomplished. Not just because they won, but because they won with power, the aspect of their game that had mysteriously failed them all throughout the first 86 contests.
No player was more emblematic of those bad first half vibes – and that unaccountable power outage – than Alfonso Soriano, who at one point looked on his way to an epic season, then saw the bottom fall out of his swing. He seemed ready to squirm out of his endless slump in the games just before the All-Star break, and then in the last two against the Nats, he finally got locked in, hitting a huge go-ahead homer in each game. We’ve seen Soriano get red hot in the past and carry the team, and perhaps he is ready for another such insane dinger binge. Maybe this will convince him that he doesn’t need to be a lead-off man, and can function just as effectively – maybe even more effectively – lower in the line-up?
Of course momentum is only as strong as your next game. It’s possible the Cubs will parlay this hammering of the Nats into a sustained run; but it’s just as possible that their next opponents, the defending champion Phillies, will stymie them. The Phillies aren’t going to commit as many errors on routine plays or flop in as many clutch situations as the ghastly Nationals did (Want to stop a Nats rally? Just let them load the bases). That being said, if Soriano keeps swinging the stick, and Mike Fontenot keeps coming on as he has been, and Aramis Ramirez keeps showing improvement and Derrek Lee continues being Derrek Lee…then the Cubs’ prospects for a successful second half will begin looking pretty good.
And if somehow Milton Bradley should get his act together too?
You’re right. Let’s not ask for miracles.