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Cubs Fri Apr 27 2012

LaHair, Cubs Show Life vs. Cardinals

Cubs_200.pngIf you're having a good day, don't look at the Cubs' season statistics. Sure, you'll see numbers for the standouts like Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair that will make you smile, but on the whole it's not a pretty picture.

To sanely make it through a 162-game schedule in which your favorite team is a bottom feeder, you need to celebrate the small successes that come along sparingly (and enjoy alliteration at its finest!). Prime example: the three-game set vs. the hated St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week. The Cubs were able to sneak away with a pair of come-from-behind victories, but failed to record the sweep after another dominating pitching performance against what looks to be a new thorn in the division.

LaHair was certainly the star of the series. Despite people clamoring for top prospect Anthony Rizzo to get the call after his hot start (hint: it's not coming soon), LaHair has been doing some major damage himself with his plate discipline and the lumber.

Down 2-1 in the ninth inning of Monday's contest, LaHair drew a 12-pitch walk against the Cardinals' fireballing (and grossly unshaven) Jason Motte. He consistently fought off the 98 mph fastballs Motte was pumping in, and did it all as a pinch hitter because manager Dale Sveum started Jeff Baker (a lefty killer) against left-handed starter Jaime Garcia. A walk to Geovany Soto followed by Steve Clevenger moving the runners over on a groundout, and cue the mob for Joe Mather's two-run walk-off single.

Down 2-1 in the ninth inning of Tuesday's contest (one I was lucky enough to be in attendance for), LaHair took matters into his own hands and showed Sveum he can hit lefties too - by bashing a solo shot to left center off fill-in closer Marc Rzepczynski (you're darn right I copy/pasted that name) to tie the game at two and bale out Carlos Marmol (who ceded a lead taking two-run homer by Matt Holliday in the eighth) in the process.

And if we're giving LaHair the award for best player of the series, a tip of the cap should go to second base umpire Bill Welke for keeping the winning run on base in the tenth inning. After Tony Campana singled to center with one out, he tried to steal second against four-time Gold Glove winner Yadier Molina. He was successful earlier in the evening, but this time he was called ou...SAFE?! It was unquestionably the wrong call (Campana's hand never touches second), but without the benefit of replay and minus Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, play resumed. LaHair was intentionally walked, and on a full count Alfonso Soriano scorched a grounder to second that got passed Tyler Greene. Cue the Steve Goodman song.

LaHair homered again off Lance Lynn (the aforementioned thorn) on Wednesday to continue his hot streak, but it ended up being the only run the Cubs could scratch across during Lynn's eight innings of solid work in the 5-1 loss.

Two out of three isn't bad against the defending World Series champs though, and early success for guys like the lifetime minor leaguer LaHair are what make Major League Baseball great. He's 29-years-old and receiving only his second extended look in The Show (he played 45 games for Seattle in 2009). He'll likely start at first base in all four games of this weekend's series at Philadelphia (all righties and no Cole Hamels) and can hopefully continue to carry the Cubs' otherwise punchless lineup on his back.

 
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