For the second series this home stand, the Cubs had a three game set cut short due to rain. Against the Rangers, that postponed game was the middle match that was suppose to go down on Wednesday night. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise as the Cubs were able to manage a split of the two games played.
The Cubs offense pounded out 19 hits in two games, even if the ones in game one came late in the bottom of the ninth during a rally that fell short. That total maintained the near 10 hits per game average witnessed last series against the Giants. The big ones came on Thursday afternoon, when Alfonso Soriano and Anthony Rizzo launched super bouncy balls off the sparsely filled bleachers.
The continued solid starts by the back of the rotation also needs to be commended. Travis Wood limited the Rangers attack in game one and Carlos Villanueva earned his first win as a Cub. Both pitchers currently featured sub 2.00 ERAs, with the lefty’s WHIP being a slim 1.07.
Apr 18, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) is freeted by Starlin Castro (13) and left fielder Alfonso Soriano (12) after hitting home run during the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of Soriano, the Cubs slugger hit his first home run of the 2013 season. That puts him three weeks ahead of schedule of his 2012 production that saw 30 plus home runs and 100 plus RBI. While this does not imply that Soriano will eclipse 40 long balls this year, it is a good sign that he will be able to reproduce his positive numbers from last season. That translates to the Cubs left fielder maintaining some trade value come July. We may be in for a textbook Soriano hot streak, as the righty has been collecting base hits all over the field leading up to his homer Thursday. In the finale against Texas, he stretched his hitting streak to four and tallied eight hits in the span of a week, raising his average from .200 to .268.
Soriano wasn’t the only one flashing improvment. Carlos Marmol nailed down the top of the ninth with a four run cushion and proceeded to set the Rangers down in order, including two strikeouts. Yes his command still was cause for concern on a couple of pitches that hit the backstop, but it is a step in the right direction. And an important step for a player that also figures to be dealt by the front office come July.
The North Siders wasted another quality start from Wood in the series opener, despite attempting to rally with two outs in the ninth. The Cubs offense, despite showing improvement in the hit total department, still struggles to support a starting rotation that has collectively exceeded expectations so far.