If there were any reservations as to whether or not Glendon Rusch's 2004 was just a case of sheer luck, he's not doing too bad a job of dispelling them so far this year. In his four starts in place of Kerry Wood, he's put up a 2.71 ERA, carrying on where he left off as a reliever. Today, albeit against the Astros' woeful offence, he was pretty masterful, painting the outside corner with his fastball at will in particular, and allowing just the single run through eight blisteringly fast and very economical innings. The solo home run he allowed to Brad Ausmus in the second inning, which was all that blighted the shutout, was the first he'd given up all year, a far cry from the four in just four innings I remember him allowing in a single Spring Training game! Keeping the ball in the park so well thus far this season has allowed him to get away with being uncharacteristically wild, but if he can tame that and keep everything else up, and the single walk today and his track record suggest that free passes really aren't a problem (which makes a refreshing change for the Cubs), I think we may have to start thinking about which of Rusch and Maddux is the better pitcher at this stage. That is, of course, pretty staggering, because I certainly don't remember Maddux being cut
by the Rangers about 14 months ago!
The Cubs didn't quite get to Wandy Rodriguez as you'd perhaps like, and they're still short of offence, which will probably be underlined by Roger Clemens in the second game of the series, but they did manage to plate four despite the wind blowing in. Hairston reached and advanced to third on a well executed hit-and-run with Neifi, and then Derrek Lee absolutely nailed yet another pitch (the quality of the contact he's making right now, still, is staggering), and Hairston tagged up and scored. Later Corey Patterson hit his ninth home run of the year (a solo shot, of course, as they all have been), and Burnitz later followed with a gopher ball of the two-run variety to give the Cubs a cushion of three. Ryan Dempster needed just four pitches to work a scoreless inning for the save, with the Astros displaying impatience that'd make Jose Macias blush.
Speaking of Jose Macias, he's had just six plate appearances the entire month in games he hasn't been spot-starting for Ramirez. Enrique Wilson has picked up the bat just once. Certainly, it makes you question just why we have the two on the bench if we're (rightly) not going to use them, and Dusty should have figured it out long ago that Macias, for a lemon, doesn't have much of a tang, but this is a belated step in the right direction and I think Dusty, dude, deserves some kudos. That is, if I'm not speaking too soon.