It was a day for celebration. Jessica joined us in the bleachers to celebrate her birthday (she also got a birthday baseball from Ballhawk Ken), and BCB's drewishdrewid answered my last-minute plea for someone to take three extra tickets I had. He brought his son Max -- whose baseball exploits you have read about here -- and Max kept score for the first time. Quite well, in fact, and he'll have a souvenir scorecard to remember, a 6-2 Cubs win over the Indians, their fourth win in a row. And for the first time this homestand, the Cubs won a game without walkoff dramatics, although Jose Ascanio forced Lou to go to his closer, Kevin Gregg, to finish it off, even though this was the fourth straight game for Gregg.
Needing some form of drama to end this game, Gregg got pinch-hitter Trevor Crowe to ground up the middle -- requiring a neat stop by Andres Blanco and an excellent swipe out of the dirt by Derrek Lee to retire Crowe to finish it.
It's the Cubs' first sweep in five weeks, since the sweep of the Padres in mid-May, and gives the Cubs, at 21-13, the best home record in the NL Central. They'll have ten games on the road, starting tomorrow with the makeup game in Atlanta, to try to improve the woeful 13-18 road record.
I cannot say enough good things about Randy Wells. He has had only one bad start in eight. He has outstanding mound presence, throws strikes (60 in 98 pitches today) and works quickly, something all fielders love. He got a few pitches up today and they were hit hard; fortunately, most of them were converted into outs in the outfield -- a couple of nice grabs by Kosuke Fukudome helped. The only run that scored while he was in the game was after a wacky high bounce on Jamey Carroll's ball into the LF corner allowed Carroll to go to third (and it seemed that Alfonso Soriano perhaps wasn't as quick as he could have been getting to the ball). Mark DeRosa drove him in with a sacrifice fly. For the series DeRosa was 1-for-7 with one RBI and four strikeouts. Who would want such a guy on their team? Seriously, I suspect DeRo was, like Kerry Wood, trying too hard on returning to a place where he specifically said he had his best times in baseball. I'd still take him back, and the Cubs do need another hitter, and after the sweep put the Indians 10 games behind the streaking Tigers, they may be sellers sooner rather than later. With Wells pitching as well as he has, and with Sean Marshall available to step in, there's no reason Rich Harden couldn't be shopped for a hitter. Perhaps a third team would need to be involved. Just so those who think I am one of the "DeRomantics", it doesn't necessarily have to be him. Mark Teahen would be another attractive target.
Derrek Lee extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a fifth-inning single; Geovany Soto hit his fifth home run in his last 90 at-bats; Milton Bradley had two doubles and is starting to hit the ball with much more authority (it seems he has more power from the right side, too). Even the odd double play he hit into in the first inning was a ball smacked right down the 3B line; it just happened to be hit right to Jhonny Peralta, who was standing right next to Ryan Theriot. Theriot had taken a short lead off third and had zero time to react and was an easy out -- you can't blame him for that one. And, Jake Fox drove in three runs with a sac fly and a double and again, handled three chances flawlessly at third base (though, one of them was closer than it had to be because he double-clutched on the throw). Playing him there against LHP is the right call.
It's a bit worrisome that Angel Guzman had to go on the DL today with Kevin Hart recalled, because Guzman had established himself as the 8th-inning alternative to the somewhat shaky Carlos Marmol. Hart has been starting at Iowa, with decent results (a 1.41 ERA in his last six starts); let's hope he can throw better than he did in his stints with the Cubs in 2008.
So the Cubs head to the first of their four makeup games 2.5 games behind the now-division-leading Cardinals, but even in the loss column with them -- and yes, that does make a difference, because presumably, you have caught up in wins with them by the time the games played difference is equalized, and have lost fewer. This team is, at last, starting to play as many of us had envisioned it as the season began. Keep up the good work, onward to Atlanta.