At last, the 2010 Cubs have won five straight games.
It's a shame it took them 148 games to do it, but hey, we'll take it. The Cubs improved to 16-7 under Mike Quade. Just for the record, since 2000 a Cubs team has gone 16-7 or better over any 23-game stretch in five other seasons: 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2008.
The inclusion of the 2000 season in that group tells you that you don't necessarily have to be a good overall team to play like this for a while -- the 2000 Cubs went 16-7 from mid-July to early August and were seven games under .500 at 52-59 before going 13-38 the rest of the year and finishing 65-97.
But it should be obvious that a strong finish, particularly when it comes from a number of young players that you are expecting to produce the following year, is a positive sign. The San Diego Padres, left for dead and expected to lose 100 games with a 38-62 record on July 27, went 37-25 the rest of the way and that strong finish has resulted in them contending for a playoff spot this year.
Do I expect that from the 2011 Cubs? Not without a lot of other improvements, but at least they've provided some solid baseball for us and a small measure of hope for the future.
The Cubs' fifth straight win, 5-3 over the Marlins, also gave the Cubs an 11-4 record in the month of September and a 7-1 road trip. The last time a Cubs team won seven games on a single road trip was in 2004, when they went 8-4 on a trip that included a doubleheader shoved into an off day in Florida because of Hurricane Ivan (the same storm that forced the Marlins and Expos to play a game at the Cell).
Casey Coleman was a little shaky early again, but settled down to post a quality start -- and it actually was a little better than that; only two of his three runs allowed scored while he was still in the game. The Cubs broke through in the fifth inning with four runs, the first of which scored on a wacky play when Marlins catcher Brad Davis threw wild on a walk, which should have loaded the bases; instead a run scored, and Marlon Byrd doubled in both remaining runners.
With the Astros' loss today the Cubs trail third-place Houston by four games, and still have three left with them in Houston to end the season. I'd like to see the Cubs finish strong and maybe overtake both the Brewers and Astros.
Because you never know what a strong finish can mean the next year.