None of us has ever seen anything like this, none who are living, anyway.
The Cubs are now 31-8 at home. I haven't been able to determine whether that's the best 39-game start by any team (it is, as far as I can tell, for the Cubs) at home, but that translates to a .795 winning percentage.
No team in the history of the National League has ever played at that percentage for a full home season. The closest was the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, who were 64-17 (.790). The Cubs' best record at home is 58-19 (.753), set in 1910 during a 154-game season. Their best record at home in the expansion era, with the 162-game schedule, is 51-29 (.638), set in 1984.
All of these goals are within reach, and as I told Mike today, I have never seen a team -- ANY team, not just the Cubs -- play like the 2008 edition has in its home park. Not even the 2005 White Sox, who won 99 games and won seemingly at will, played this well at home (they actually won more games on the road, 52, than they did at home, 47).
Speaking of the White Sox, the Cubs and Jason Marquis spotted them a 4-1 lead today as the white-hot Jermaine Dye (who has now homered six times in his last six games, a .435 average in those six games with 15 RBI) homered with a man on base in the fourth inning (the second time in the game that Marquis had allowed a two-out, two-run homer). It didn't matter. It never seems to matter to this team, which has come from behind more times than I can remember in home games. The nine-run fourth inning, with four home runs including two by Jim Edmonds, was the Cubs' biggest inning since a ten-run inning against the Cardinals on June 10, 2004; that was the day that the Tomato Inning tradition began among our bleacher group. Today, each time a Cub hit one of those home runs, those in our section took to rubbing the head of a Sox fan sitting among us (Hey, it seemed like the thing to do at the time).
No such thing was necessary today; Edmonds became the third Cub to homer twice in an inning (Sammy Sosa, May 16, 1996 and Mark Bellhorn, August 29, 2002 are the others), and the four homers in an inning also tied a club record, first set May 12, 1930, against the New York Giants and tied on April 27, 2000, at Houston. Incidentally, have a look at who hit those four -- pretty forgettable players, right? Someday, someone might say that about Mike Fontenot, who was one of the four who homered in that inning -- and then Lou yanked him when he had a chance to do something that has only been done once in baseball history, have two players hit two HR in an inning. No sense of history, Lou.
But best of all, the game was the second win in a row against the White Sox, 11-7, which was closer than it had to be due to some further control problems from Carlos Marmol, who walked three in his inning and wild-pitched a run in, and Bob Howry, who got to two outs in the 9th fairly easily and then gave up run-scoring singles to Carlos Quentin and Dye, forcing Lou to summon Kerry Wood to end it.
Looks good, doesn't it?
We shouldn't complain too much, I suppose, but this afternoon's pitching performances won't win too many games. Lou said in his postgame news conference that there's nothing physically wrong with Marmol. He seemed annoyed that the very first questions out of the reporters gathered assumed that he was hurt, and I agree with this annoyance. Sometimes pitchers just go through bad stretches, and this is one of those for Marmol; Lou said they'd go look at some video to see what's wrong with him. Howry -- same thing, he just doesn't seem to be able to get past those early-season problems that have plagued him for the last couple of years. Even Marquis, who settled down after that fourth inning, kept giving up hits, and though he struggled through seven innings, he wasn't as sharp as he has been for his last six starts. Incidentally, I was a little bit puzzled at the ruling on Marquis' ground ball in the 7th that Alexei Ramirez knocked down, then threw (apparently) too late to get Marquis. 1B umpire Mike Estabrook made NO ruling, which to me would appear to mean that Marquis never touched first base. When A. J. Pierzynski noticed this, he ran up and tagged Marquis out -- which should have made it a groundout, but Marquis was credited with a single. The only way this is possible is if he DID touch first base and then made the turn to second. Just a curiosity of the rules here; it had no impact on the final score.
As yesterday, it rained for about 45 minutes during batting practice, and I say "during" because the Cubs didn't hit today (say, maybe this "no BP" thing is helping?), but the White Sox did, and never stopped though for a while the rain was falling moderately hard. The ground crew never made a move to cover the field, and it never got all that muddy in the infield. By game time the sun was shining brightly and all had dried off pretty well.
I now say my mea culpas about Jim Edmonds. For all of us who thought he was done, we were wrong. In 25 games as a Cub, Edmonds is now hitting .311/.363/.581 in 74 at-bats, with 4 HR and 16 RBI. That's production that just about any team would be thankful to have from its center fielder; Edmonds is an excellent platoon partner with Reed Johnson, and appears to still be able to play a competent center field. Hats off to Jim Hendry and his scouts for seeing something the rest of us didn't. Perhaps, in this most special of seasons, it is going to take this former bitterest of rivals to show us the way toward our ultimate goal.
I think the primary reason that the Cubs put Carlos Zambrano on the 15-day DL today was to prevent any chance that he might try to talk Lou and the coaching staff into letting him pitch next weekend at the Cell. With the off-day Tuesday he'll miss two starts, probably not more, and Sean Marshall will be recalled to start against the Orioles that day. Frankly, I'd rather see the Cubs put Jon Lieber in that slot (I still don't understand why Lou won't use Lieber in the long relief/spot start role for which he is suited), or simply skip a turn and move everyone else in the rotation back. Perhaps they want to showcase Marshall for a possible upcoming trade. Up to now, I haven't been pressing for a deal for a pitcher, because -- well, with the team winning the way it is, it didn't seem necessary. Now, with Z's status uncertain, looking for a pitcher may seem a new priority (I'm still on the Greg Maddux bandwagon -- he's throwing better this year than he has in a long time, and yes, I am aware his ERA is higher on the road than it is in Petco, and a lot of that is due to the "take one for the team" start in Arizona where he got pounded for nine earned runs).
To that regard, I have learned that the Cubs are working out Freddy Garcia in Mesa, to see if he's recovered well enough from his shoulder surgery a year ago to be useful. Garcia just turned 33, is only a year removed from two pretty good years in the White Sox rotation, and of course, is a familiar face to Lou Piniella, who was his manager in his first four seasons in Seattle. If he's anywhere close to being healthy, I say sign him to a Triple-A contract, ship him to Iowa for a while and see what he can do. It's a no-risk, potentially high-reward, signing.
In the meantime, the Cubs and Ryan Dempster go for the sweep tomorrow. They have won thirteen consecutive home games, their longest such home winning streak since a similar 13-game streak from May 19-June 17, 2001. Keep it going. We are witnessing history in the making.