They did it again.
Each day, new heroes, new ways to win; I stare in amazement, as the atmosphere at Wrigley Field gets more and more playoff-like; today, Alfonso Soriano's 7th-inning homer off Clay Condrey gave the Cubs a 3-2 win over the Phillies, their seventh win in a row, but it was patience and walks that put the ballclub in position for victory.
Clogging the bases with relish, the Cubs scored the tying run in the sixth inning with no hits, as Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa and finally, Kosuke Fukudome, drew walks, forcing in a run. The first three walks (and two others earlier in the game) were off Philly starter Joe Blanton, who had the Cubs handcuffed until Aramis Ramirez singled in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Phils scraped two runs off Rich Harden, who wasn't sharp today, but just as Ryan Dempster did last night, he kept his team in the game despite being uncharacteristically wild -- walking four, and throwing 100 pitches in five innings. The first run came when Harden hit Chase Utley in the first, and then, apparently rattled, he gave up a walk and a single to Pat Burrell, and then an unusual bad throw by Fukudome, who hit either Lee or baserunner Ryan Howard on a relay, allowed Utley to score the second run in the fifth.
Another walk, also to DeRo, gave the Cubs their first run, getting that fifth-inning Philly run back, and though Jeff Samardzija wasn't sharp either today, walking two in his inning-plus, he kept it close enough for Soriano's heroics (and to claim his first major league win), and then Carlos Marmol, who closed because Kerry Wood had thrown in four straight games, shut the Phillies down with nasty sliders (I thought he had Utley struck out a pitch before he swung and missed; plate umpire Bill Welke's strike zone was a little strange today).
More history was made today: the Cubs' 51st win of the season at home ties them for the most home wins in a single year since 1945 -- that was accomplished in 1984 by the 96-win NL East champions. Eleven home games remain, so not only can they break that record, but they have a shot at the all-time Cub record for home wins, 58, which was set in the pennant year of 1910.
I don't know how many more transcendent words I can come up with. Each time this team seems to have reached a peak, they top it with a victorious way that we haven't seen before. Yes, a homer won today's game, but as I said, it was patience at the plate -- something that's been wonderful to see this year, something we haven't seen from a Cubs team in decades, if ever -- that put them in position for Soriano's game-winner.
So rest and enjoy the evening and savor, till tomorrow. Go Pirates!