Columnist Phil Arvia sees incremental improvements as Cubs sweep White Sox, gain a game on Milwaukee.
While it is uncertain if the Keystone Kops ever made it to Puerto Rico, Angel Pagan tried his best to revive their directionally challenged legacy Sunday.
But even while it appeared he was running what might have been a two-run double by Mark DeRosa into the oddest of double plays - essentially, right field to second base to home, minus the pickle-related relays - Pagan was being rescued.
“He was running with his head down, ready to go to third on the ball because he got a good read on it as it went over the right fielder’s head,” Lou Piniella said. “The only problem is, our lead runner was tagging up.”
The solution was Juan Uribe, getting in the way near second base. The collision, though it didn’t prevent Pagan from continuing toward a third base occupied by Pie, did result in an obstruction call that erased the ensuing outs.
For once, the out-of-luck Cubs lucked out, Pie later becoming an insurance run in their 3-0 win over the reeling White Sox.
“Yeah, we need a little bit of that, too,” Cliff Floyd said. “Though we feel like we’ve got a good team, we do need some breaks, of course.”
Maybe they’re due. If you make your own luck, maybe the changes the Cubs have made over the last month or so are starting to pay off.
Contrary to what Pagan’s follies might suggest, this is a club less prone to blunder than it was earlier in the season.
The Cubs made several strong defensive plays Sunday, from Cesar Izturis throwing out Paul Konerko after diving into the hole for a stop, to Derrek Lee and Sean Marshall combining to outscramble Jim Thome on a smash to first, to Alfonso Soriano throwing out Luis Terrero at the plate.
“And the catcher made a good play on that - it was a short hop, wasn’t it? That’s a tough play,” Piniella said, certainly intending no offense to the departed Michael Barrett.
Perhaps now the Cubs can mount their long-anticipated charge on the lead in National League Central. They picked up a game Sunday on first-place Milwaukee and are alone in second, 7 1/2 games back, with the Brewers coming to Chicago next weekend.
“Forget Milwaukee,” Piniella said, adding the Cubs have to get to .500. “Once we do that, we can start looking around.”
The Cubs can’t get to .500 by playing .500, which is what they’ve done since May 1.
They’re 25-25 since then, an improvement over what went before, but maddening nonetheless.
Opening May, they won five straight. Then they lost four of five. And won two of three. Lost two. Won two. Lost three. Won two of three. Lost six. Won five of six. Lost three of four. Won three. Lost four of five. And swept three from the Sox.
“Slowly, we’ve been playing better baseball,” Piniella said. “It hasn’t really equated into the won and loss record, but you continue to play like this, invariably it will.”
Bob Howry, who saved the last two games of the sweep, feels the roll coming.
“A month ago, it seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong, and it just kind of snowballed,” he said. “Now, we’ve got guys diving all over the place, making great plays, the pitching’s been good, the guys are getting clutch hits. It's just kind of contagious.”
Maybe it’s an outbreak we should have anticipated.
“I’m sure everyone in their life searches for stability and peace of mind,” DeRosa said. “It’s knowing what’s expected of you on any given day. For the first two months, we were scuffling. The lineups were rotating, Soriano was in center field, I was at second.
“I think guys now have kind of settled into what their roles are going to be for the remainder of the year, barring injury. We’re starting to accept it, and coming together as 25 guys just trying to win. I think peace of mind has sort of taken over here a little bit.”
Time to start riding the peace train toward Milwaukee.
Phil Arvia can be reached at
or (708) 633-5949. Read his blog at http://blogs.dailysouthtown.com/arvia.