A lot of people are wondering if the Cubs are real or not. A lot of doubters point to the fact that a lot of the Cubs victories have come against some bad teams. But on Monday night, the Cubs faced the New York Mets, everyone’s pick to win the east after signing Santana, on ESPN. It was a matchup between Carlos Zambrano and John Maine under the lights at Wrigley. Man, if you saw it on a nice high def TV, Wrigley Field looked just gorgeous. The crowd at Wrigley got to witness a great game, as it was a nail biter all the way until the seventh inning, when the Cubs busted it open to take the first game of the two game series 7-1. It’s games like these that make you feel like this may be a magical season at Wrigley.
As expected, it started out as a pitchers dual. Zambrano was really on tonight, Big Z gave up only five hits, walked two and struck out four over seven innings. The defense also came up big, turning four double plays. The Cubs were able to get to Maine in the bottom of the fourth, when Derek Lee led off the inning with a single. That’s when Aramis Ramirez hit a home run to tie the game. Ramirez has now homered in cosecutive games and it looks like he’s heating up. In the top of the sixth, Z ran into a little trouble. Endy Chavez started out the inning with a double that just missed being a home run. John Maine was up next, and bunted the ball right in front of home plate. Soto tried to throw out the lead runner at third, but Chavez got a good jump and everyone was safe. With runners at first and third, Jose Reyes hit into a double play, scoring Chavez and cutting the Cubs lead in half. With the double play, it looked like the inning was done, but Luiis Castillo hit an infield single and David Wright drew a walk. That brought up Carlos Beltran with the tying run at second. Z go Beltran to fly out to left to end the threat.
Busting it Open
With the Cubs leading 2-1, Carlos Marmol took the mound in the eighth inning. He made quick work of the Mets, getting them out in order. Marmol made veteran pinch hitter Marlon Byrd look goofy on a knee buckling breaking ball. With Kerry Wood warming up in the bullpen, the Cubs were looking to add some insurance runs. The inning started out well, with Derek Lee reaching on an error by the shortstop Jose Reyes. Relief pitcher Aaron Heilman hit Aramis, putting runners at first and second. Then the place went nuts, chanting Fukudome’s name, and he didn’t disappoint. Fukudome fought off pitch after pitch before slapping a single to left field to load the bases with no outs. But then it started to happen. Mark DeRosa had a horrible at bat, striking out for the first out. Than Geovany Soto popped out for the second out. It looked like the typical Cubs, loading up the bases and then letting the pitcher off the hook, swinging momentum back to the opposing team. Not only that, but Ronnie Cedeno, who was a late game addition after Theriot couldn’t play with back spasms, was up to bat. Cedeno was 0-3 at that point, reaching base on an error by David Wright. Down quickly in the count, it looked like the Cubs would spoil the opportunity, but then Cedeno hit a ball up the middle to drive in Lee and Ramirez and give the Cubs a 4-1 lead. After that, Heilman was pulled and Jorge Sosa came into the game. Lou brought in Pie to pinch hit for Marmol, and Pie jacked one to right, giving the Cubs a 7-1 lead. Pie’s reaction was priceless. Wood put ’em away 1-2-3 and the Cubs put on a dazzling display of ptching, defense, and timely hitting.
Is this team for real? I don’t know. I keep staring at stats and can’t believe how well the Cubs are doing offensively, especially when it comes to seeing pitches and taking walks. The soft underbelly of most teams is middle relieff. Have the pitcher throw a high number of pitches, get him out of the game by the fifth or sixth inning, and go to town on the stiffs that most teams have in their bullpen. I just though that Monday nights win against the Mets had one of those magical feelings at Wrigley, the kind that really get Cubs fans excited and make the doubters take notice. After struggling so bad in April last season, this is the kind of start Lou was looking for. The Cubs play game two of the series at 1:20 tomorrow, with Ted Lilly taking on Nelson Figueroa. Lilly wants to contribute in the worst possible way, and how nice would it be to see Ted get his first W tommorrow. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that Ted can finally get it going.