ARLINGTON, Texas -- What a day for Cubs and Blackhawks fans!
First, congratulations to the Blackhawks on reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 18 years -- and this time, they should be the favorite to win. Outstanding play by the Hawks in coming from behind today.
Meanwhile, the Cubs roared out to a 4-0 first-inning lead against the Rangers and had to get outstanding relief work from Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol to hang on for their second straight 5-4 win over Texas. The series win gave the Cubs a 3-2 record on their brief road trip -- all against first-place teams. Who says this Cubs team can't compete?
In their last 12 games, the Cubs have played eight games decided by one run and gone 4-4 in those eight. They really could have won all five games on this road trip, the last four of them all one-run games. The Cubs are now 7-10 for the season in one-run games; most of that is due to the bullpen issues that have dogged this team all year. Even the presence of Bob Howry (whose entry into the game nearly blew up the Cubs Twitterverse) didn't harm the result, although Howry gave up a double that scored the Rangers' fourth and last run of the game. After that Howry got Ian Kinsler to pop up and after an intentional pass, Marshall was summoned to end the inning, which he did by getting Josh Hamilton to hit a soft line drive right at Ryan Theriot.
The Cubs' four-run first was highlighted by Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer, his ninth of the season and 299th of his career. Derrek Lee has 298 career home runs -- perhaps, as Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko did last year for the White Sox, the Cubs' pair can hit their 300th both in the same game (Dye and Konerko did it back-to-back on April 13, 2009).
But that's a story for another day. Lee had an RBI single in that first inning and looked better at the plate. Aramis Ramirez did not play today and according to this Carrie Muskat tweet, will miss a few more days:
X-rays Sunday of #Cubs Aramis Ramirez's left thumb were negative but he will sit for few days to heal mild sprain/bruise
We can only hope that rest will bring Aramis back to his normal level of performance.
Way above any of our expectations is Carlos Silva, who became the first Cubs starting pitcher to start the season 6-0 since Ken Holtzman in 1967:
Silva is the 11th pitcher to begin their Cubs career at 6-0, and fifth to do so as a starter. The latter list includes Dizzy Dean (6-0 in 1938), King Cole (8-0 in 1910), Jack Taylor (7-0 in 1899) and Fred Goldsmith (7-0 in 1880).
The last pitcher to start his Cubs career at 6-0 was Felix Heredia, who picked up the wins in relief in 1998-99.
Holtzman spent most of 1967 in military service and pitched only 12 starts, on weekend passes -- he wound up that season 9-0. Silva made only one real mistake, a ball Michael Young smacked for a two-run homer, and was lifted in the sixth because of minor neck problems, two outs short of a "quality start".
Carlos Marmol made it interesting in the ninth by walking Kinsler before getting Vladimir Guerrero to end it on a called third strike. All three games in this series had racheted-up intensity -- I wouldn't call it playoff intensity, not in mid-May, but these games felt far more intense than most regular season games. The Cubs rose to the occasion by taking these last two -- let's hope they keep that feeling over the off day, because it won't get any easier during the upcoming homestand.
A big thank you to the Rangers fans, who were friendly and hospitable throughout -- none of the usual Cub-baiting nonsense that one often hears at road games, although I did see someone wearing a T-shirt that he had hand-written "1908 Goat" on. Hey, buddy: get some new material. And to the Cubs fans at Rangers Ballpark who started lifting their "W" flags with two out in the ninth -- don't do that! Major jinx material. The flags don't come out until the game is won.
Which it was today. Enjoy the off day, and remember -- this team, though flawed, is just as good as nearly every other flawed NL team.