Chicago Cubs Analysis: Today’s game everything we hoped for and more


Redemption, intrigue, but most of all a victory. A little bit of everything to come in this series with the Cardinals

It was a series-opening win for the Chicago Cubs over the St. Louis Cardinals to begin their three-game set, but it was actually much more than just that. There are comeback stories, ejections, great defense, and of course, the win over the best team in baseball. Let’s peel back some of these layers and see just what this series had for us today and what it could mean over the weekend.

Castro‘s remarkable ‘comeback’

It’s strange to look at a 25-year old kid with almost 1,000 Major League hits as a comeback story, but that’s exactly what he’s become. Forever a lighting rod for criticism, he’s been the target of Cubs fans all season. From weak ground outs to mental lapses to silly errors, Starlin Castro was by no means proving the haters wrong. I stood by my defense of him that the Cubs were a better team to keep him–even if it was in a reduced role. Some thought he should simply be released since he couldn’t be traded.

So how’s all that going?

Castro went from starting shortstop to bench to part-time player and now the frequent second baseman. Since being “benched” on Aug. 6, Castro has played in 32 games. He’s batting .347 in that stretch with five home runs and 14 runs batted in. He’s hitting the ball with authority and in clutch situations. Of course, players should take demotions professionally, but Castro has done that and responded with the type of play we knew he was capable of, at least at the plate. But as I’ve always said, it’s easier to overlook subpar fielding when you hit like he is.

I’m legitimately happy to see him doing well, finally getting a chance to be part of a winner. Two home runs against the Cards is a good way to “do your part”.

It feels like a legitimate rivalry

We always talk about our “rivals” the Cardinals, but it’s felt like anything but that in recent years. But now, this September series means something–and you can feel the rivalry, even as a fan. Dan Haren wasn’t trying to hit Matt Holliday in the back of the head–he didn’t need another runner on in such a tight game. And Matt Belisle may or may not have meant to hit Anthony Rizzo–clearly we know what Rizzo though of it. But you can feel that fire between the two again, and it’s making for great baseball down the stretch.

I’ve been a Cubs’ fan “all my life”, and I have a very good memory of past teams. But it’s tough to remember times when the Cards were the team we battled with. I know there were some, but we’ve been down for so many years no, and the Cards fans have had their laughs at our expense. Hope they got them all in, because that time may be coming to an abrupt halt.

Who’s this Ramirez guy?

Did you realize Neil Ramirez had been back in Chicago for about 10 days now? Or that he hadn’t pitched at the major league level since July? Ramirez got his chance today with the Cubs up handily late–but don’t discount what it could mean for the bullpen. He was going to be a key piece for the Cubs pen this year, it just may be a little later than expected that he seizes that role.

With so many innings and appearances racking up for the relievers, fresh arms are always appreciated. But Ramirez isn’t just a fresh arm, he’s a good one. If Maddon can find more spots to get him into and loose in the final weeks, he could be an important part of the postseason push leading into the Wild Card game.

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This is what September baseball should be

The Cubs could get to within a game of the Pittsburgh Pirates if they fall to the Dodgers tonight. They’ve already gained a game on the Cardinals. It’s not about scoreboard watching and hoping teams lose–the Cubs could have their destiny firmly in their hands.

Three straight against the WC leading Bucs, now a win in the opener against the best team in baseball. The Cubs aren’t playing the “spoiler”, at least in the sense that they have in the past five years. They’re still out to do some spoiling, but the sights are set on hosting a Wild Card game or winning the Central–not just bragging rights in a lost season.

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