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Harden Dominates, Cubs Sign Hefty Lefty

By Garrett Monaghan

The Cubs need Rich Harden to get back on track in the second half and he got off to a good start yesterday, throwing six six strong innings as the Cubs whipped the Nationals 6-2. Harden scattered six hits, gave up one run, didn't walk anybody, and fanned seven en-route to his first win since the end of June. Kevin Gregg coughed up another home run in the ninth inning, continuing his disturbing trend of surrendering gopher balls, but the bullpen was otherwise solid.

Admittedly, beating the Nationals doesn't qualify as a great accomplishment, but it's nice to see the Cubs start off the second half on the right note. With three more games against Washington, the Cubs have a good opportunity to gain some ground and build a little momentum for the stretch run.

Speaking of stocking up for the stretch run, Jim Hendry finally managed to acquire a player in his own weight class yesterday; signing the recently released B.J. Ryan to a minor league deal. The only part of this move that I like is the fact that the Cubs apparently aren't going to let Ryan anywhere near Wrigley for a while. Ryan will apparently report to Arizona for conditioning before moving to AAA Iowa. One of baseball's better closers as recently as last year; Ryan reported to spring training in miserable shape, showed drastically reduced velocity all season, and finally managed to pitch his way out of Toronto completely. If Ryan can lay off the doughnuts long enough to remember how to pitch, he could give the Cubs another decent lefty out of the pen, but I doubt he'll end up being any use.

With an unusually large number of teams still in the running for the postseason, it doesn't seem likely that Hendry will be able to deal for left-handed help in the bullpen; so Ryan might be all the help that he'll really be able to find. Now we'll just have to sit back and see who else Hendry decides can help push the Cubs into October.

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