Boy, after Friday nights difficult 5-4 loss to the Reds, and Milwaukee’s 12-2 victory over the Cardinals, things looked bad for the Cubs and their fans. When we all woke up Saturday morning, the Brewers were up three games on the Cubs. The Brew Crew were dominating the Cardinals again on Saturday in the first game of a day-night double header, when their bullpen fell apart. Losing the second half of a double header on Saturday, and another bullpen collapse on Sunday and two more Cubs victories and now I sit here writing this post with the Cubs 1/2 games out of first. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of baseball left to be played, but now we are basically starting from scratch. Milwaukee, which led the division by 8 1/2 games before play on June 24. The Cubs have won 23 of their last 32 games and are 33-17 since June 3, best record in the Majors in that stretch. To come back from that far back is amazing, and let’s hope we can keep this thing rolling. As Uncle Lou says;
"We just have to keep grinding. It’s a little early to get google-eyed with where we’re at. [August] is a month that separates the men from the boys."
I was worried after Friday’s loss knowing that the Cubs would have to go up against the Red’s ace, Aaron Harang. Then the game starts, Harang walks Ryan Theriot, gives up a two run homer to Derek Lee, and he’s out of the game by the second inning with lower back soreness. What a break! New pitcher Mike Gosling got the first batter he faced, Mike Fontenot out, but then walked Jacque Jones, gave up a single to Jason Kendall, and both runners moved up on a Sean Marshall bunt. Then Soriano, Soriano, who entered the game hitting .183 (11-for-60) since the All-Star break, crushed a 420 foot home run to the left field upper deck of the Great American Ballpark. That was all the lead that Sean Marshall would need as he pitched a great game. Marshall gave up one run, six hits, one walk and struck out three over six innings. Cliff Floyd added an RBI double and Soriano hit another home run in the ninth, giving him 5 RBI’s in the game.
Lucky Number 14
Carlos Zambrano continued his domination on Sunday and Big Z became became the first 14-game winner in the Major Leagues, and is only two games shy of his personal best, 16 games. Zambrano mowed down the Reds, pitching 7 1/3 shutout innings on Sunday before leaving with thigh cramps, and finished with more hits as a batter (three) than he allowed (two). Aramis Ramirez scored the first run of the game on a double, and Mark DeRosa added an RBI sac fly to give Big Z a 2-0 lead before he threw a pitch. Derek Lee homered for the fifth time in his last eight games, and Angel Pagan added some more insurance with a 2 run single in the ninth. With Cubs fans filling the ballpark in Cincinnati, it was a loud, fun, party for Cubs fans.
The Brewers looked like they were going to destroy the Cardinals after winning 12-2 on Friday and jumping out to a huge lead on Saturday, but Major League saves leader Francisco Cordero blew a 6-4 lead and the Cardinals took the game 7-6. Beginning on June 9, when Cordero suffered his first blown save of the season, after starting 22-for-22, he has had an especially tough time on the road. In 10 games and nine innings pitched, he has surrendered 15 earned runs on 26 hits, while converting only four of nine save opportunities. The loss carried over to the next game of the double header, as Anthony Reyes, who entered the day 0-10 with a 6.40 ERA, helped St. Louis beat Milwaukee 5-2. Then on Sunday, the Brewers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, but saw it chipped away as the Cards were able to cut the lead to 5-4 in the fifth. Then in the eighth, Derek Turnbow and Carlos Villanueva combined to give up five runs in the eighth. The Brewers keep saying they are not worried about the Cubs, but Lou wondered earlier in the year if the pressure of being the leaders of the division and getting all this media attention would get to them at some point and time.
"If anybody is frustrated, we’re frustrated with ourselves," Villanueva said, "because we know we’re better than this. It’s not because the Cubs are winning. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do, and it’s up to us to do what we’re supposed to do, and that’s win. We know we have the guys here to do it."
"I don’t care about the Cubs," Manager Ned Yost said. "This is July and we have a lot of things to worry about other than the Cubs."
Sounds like some team is getting a little rattled.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals three game winning streak puts them only six games back and gives them some life again. The Cubs will play the Cardinals 7 more times this season, including a 4 game stretch in August at home. Hopefully they get on a losing streak and give up before we play them again. On the wildcard picture, the Cubs are one game out, but have three west coast teams in front of them; Arizona, Dodgers, and San Diego.(really only two because the Dodgers and Arizona are tied for first in the division.)
The Brewers don’t play on Monday, so if the Cubs can win tomorrow night, they would be tied for the division lead. Both the Cubs and Brewers play two very good east coast teams. The Cubs start out with a four game series with the Phillies, who are only 1 1/2 games out of the wildcard. The Phillies have also been very hot lately, even after losing all star second baseman Chase Utley. The Brewers will take on the Mets on Tuesday, starting a three game series. Then the Cubs will play the Mets this weekend and the Brewers will play the Philles. Milwaukee is a much stronger home team then road team, so the Cubs need to to their part and win series. That’s been the key the whole time. In July, the Cubs and Brewers have had seven different series. The Cubs have won five of the seven and the Brewers have only won two of the seven they played. Let’s keep doing our job, and take first place!
Monday: 6:05 p.m., CSN, ESPN. LH Cole Hamels (11-5, 3.63 ERA) vs. LH Ted Lilly (11-4, 3.46).
Tuesday: 7:05 p.m., WCIU-Ch. 26. RH Adam Eaton (9-6, 5.83) vs. RH Jason Marquis (7-6, 4.20).
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m., CSN. LH Jamie Moyer (9-8, 4.75) vs. LH Rich Hill (6-6, 3.59).
Thursday: 1:20 p.m., WGN-Ch. 9. RH J.D. Durbin (3-2, 6.30) vs. LH Sean Marshall (5-4, 3.10).
There are no easy wins here. The Cubs need to get timely hitting, good defense, and limit the walks. The Phillies are coming off a three game sweep against the Pirates, so they are riding a little wave of momentum. We need Ted Lily, who has been so clutch, to deliver again and get the Cubs off to a good start on this important homestand. We also need Soriano to relax, have fun, and don’t try too hard at Wrigley. He needs to stay hot. I’ll be at Wednesday nights game to cheer the Cubs on. Let’s get some runs and some W’s!