Marquis Mark: Cubs 2, Pirates 0

Stop what you're doing right now and look around you, remember where you are, what you are doing, because this is an historic day in Cubs history.

You'd have to be over 70 years old (and there may be a few here, but not many) to really remember the last time a Cubs team was 33 games over .500. It was on September 30, 1945, the last day of that pennant-winning season, when they finished 98-56, 42 games over .500, the highest-water mark of that year. It's not likely the 2008 Cubs will get that far -- but who knows, this team has surpassed any hopes even optimistic me had at the beginning of the season. This team is by far the best Cubs team in my lifetime.

So you are experiencing things that you never have, and that no Cubs fan has for decades.

Today, in a snappy two hour and seventeen minute 2-0 shutout of the Pirates, the Cubs turned to "small ball", as likely they, and the Pirates as well, were tired from last night's marathon and the short turnaround to a midday start today, under threatening skies that never did rain on Pittsburgh -- the game was short enough that the Cubs players might even be home for dinner tonight. It completed the Cubs' eleventh series sweep of the season (ten sweeps of three games or more and one two-gamer, the abbreviated series vs. the Mets in April).

The Cubs left RISP in the 1st, 4th and 5th innings and ran themselves out of another when Alfonso Soriano got picked off in the third. Let me not complain about Alfonso today, because he did have two of the Cubs' seven hits. By the time the seventh came along in the scoreless game, though, it was the bottom of the Cubs' order with many reserves and platoon partners playing that produced the winning rally, and it was bunts that were most important. Reed Johnson bunted his way on base and Mark DeRosa doubled him to third -- and then on a contact play, Johnson raced across the plate on a slow roller to third by Ronny Cedeno, and then Henry Blanco laid down a perfect suicide squeeze to score DeRo, Blanco's tenth RBI of the year. Henry has 97 at-bats and is having the finest offensive year of his career, in addition to providing valuable backup behind the plate to Geovany Soto, who got a well-deserved day off.

And that was enough for Marquis, who was outstanding today. Throwing only 95 pitches and walking nobody, he probably could have finished, but Carlos Marmol (16 pitches) and Kerry Wood (11 pitches, 7 strikes) finished up efficiently, Wood posting his 27th save, which is now tied for fifth in the NL despite the fact that Wood missed almost a month.

So that puts the pressure on both the Cardinals and Brewers as they see the score posted before they take the field tonight in St. Louis. Hard as it is to root for either of those teams, tonight I'm squarely in the Cardinals' corner, hoping they will help put Milwaukee six games behind the Cubs as the Cubs begin a seven-game homestand against the Phillies tomorrow at Wrigley Field. There are a couple of real interesting pitching matchups ahead of us this weekend, including the match between former A's teammates Rich Harden and Joe Blanton on Friday, and on Sunday junkballer Jamie Moyer will face Carlos Zambrano. Moyer made his major league debut on June 16, 1986, when a young Z had just celebrated his fifth birthday a couple of weeks before. (Do you think he smashed his face into a piece of birthday cake back then?)

Celebrate, everyone. Enjoy this, every moment. We're entering the last two months of the season flying higher than any Cubs team has in decades. And the best is yet to come.

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