Giddy. Giddy, I tell you. Here it is June and the Cubs are doing so well that I'm quoting lyrics from cheesy John Denver songs in the title of my game recap.
It was that kind of day. It was that kind of homestand... and though I missed two games to attend an enjoyable reunion of my college class, the Cubs never missed a beat (I asked Jeff when I got back to the bleachers today, "So, did I miss anything?" Deadpan, he took the line and said, "Nope, nothing.") Friday and Saturday, and kept it going today with their seventh win in a row, 5-3 over the Rockies, sweeping a seven-game homestand for the first time since 1970. Getting more numbers out of the way: the Cubs won 13 consecutive home games in 2001, the last seven of an eleven-game homestand (after losing the first four), then went on the road and won five more in a row. They then lost the last game of a series in Milwaukee, came home and swept the Cardinals in a three-game series, lost four of six on the road and then came back home and swept the Twins in an interleague series (complete 2001 schedule here). That all happened right around this time of year and made that 2001 team a contender for a while, though they faded in September. The 12-game overall winning streak from May 19-June 2, 2001, is the longest winning streak in my lifetime.
For those of you too young to remember 1969, this is how it felt. A team that went on the field and won seemingly every single day, a team brimming with confidence and yes, as Lou would now put it, "Cubbie swagger".
There is a big difference, however. The '69 team had All-Stars at many positions and in the pitching rotation -- but no bullpen or bench, and Leo Durocher rode those horses (to use a phrase from a certain other past Cub manager) until they collapsed. This team gets contributions from everyone, as seen especially last Friday, and has a solid bench and bullpen.
That was in evidence again today, as Jim Edmonds, nearly booed out of Wrigley Field in his first few days as a Cub, had two more extra-base hits today and two RBI, and maybe, just maybe, is going to show enough of his previous form to become a useful platoon center fielder. A productive Edmonds platooning with Reed Johnson would solve that problem, allowing Jim Hendry to focus on other needs (rumor heard today: the Cubs may be showing some preliminary interest in Kevin Millwood, though with the way Sean Gallagher threw today, maybe they don't need another starter, and Millwood isn't what he was a couple of years ago). I was also pleased to see Lou continue what he did yesterday, inserting Johnson in LF to replace Alfonso Soriano for defense in the 9th inning. Soriano, for his part, today homered again, tying Derrek Lee for the team lead in HR (D-Lee got the day off, though had the pitcher's spot come up in the 7th, he was on deck ready to hit), and more importantly, driving in his 35th run.
After 57 team games in 2007, Soriano had 17 RBI. He's more than doubled that after the same number of games this year, and already has half his 2007 season total of 70. For the month of May, Soriano hit .345/.386/.672 with 10 HR, 29 RBI, and 20 runs scored. He's a strong candidate to be named NL Player of the Month -- and despite his dropped fly ball that cost the Cubs the game last Sunday, he's been well worth his money for the last month.
Sean Gallagher threw OK today -- he labored in the later innings and I told everyone in our section that he was going to last in that 6th inning as long as he didn't allow anyone on base. Sure enough, after Omar Quintanilla had a two-out double, Lou came to get him. Unfortunately, Michael Wuertz wasn't any good today and so a run got charged to Gallagher after he left the game. The rest of the pen was terrific and most importantly, Bob Howry has been solid in his last few outings, looked like he had better velocity today and if he keeps throwing like he did today, that will take a lot of pressure off Carlos Marmol. I heard today that Howry had given a spring training interview in which he said he really didn't throw during the offseason. When you are 34 years old, maybe that's not such a great idea, Bob. It would explain why he's had slow starts each of the last two years.
Things are starting to rock with near-playoff intensity. Kerry Wood entered to a standing ovation and everyone stood through the entire 9th inning. This is only June. We have to pace ourselves, I think, or we'll all be exhausted come September. Today, it finally felt like summer, with bright sunshine high in the sky, though the lake breeze made the box-score temperature 59 degrees and many seats in the shade emptied out in the late innings.
Enjoy this ride, everyone, as I have been telling you: remember how this feels, remember each and every game, because this has the chance to be the season we have all waited for all our lives. You'll want to remember every moment. The Cubs do have some work to do, particularly in learning how to win on the road, and getting Kosuke Fukudome out of his road-trip funks (he looked bad today striking out three times) -- and this trip is a good chance to do so, playing two teams in various states of disarray. Rest up -- you'll be up late the next five nights.