Starting pitcher Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs stretches before throwing against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Cubs completed their second straight home three-game sweep and have now won six straight home games for the first time since 2009 by defeating the Diamondbacks 3-1 at Wrigley Field Sunday afternoon. The last time a Cubs team won more than six consecutive home games was in 2008, when that club (a 55-game winner at home) won 14 in a row at Wrigley from May 18-June 22.
Before I talk about the great things that happened Sunday, let me get my complaint for the game out of the way.
I'm sick of the reflexive lefty/righty switching that Dale Sveum does. It nearly cost him the game Sunday afternoon. If he's not going to go with Carlos Marmol -- the official closer -- to start the ninth, and bring James Russell in, and Russell gets an easy out... then stick with Russell! Russell's not a LOOGY; he can get righthanded hitters out, that is, if Sveum would ever let him.
Instead, Marmol came in, and, naturally, walked the first man he faced, and then gave up a single. He ran the count to 2-2 before striking out a man hitting .120 (Geoff Blum), and then, Gerardo Parra hit a ball that looked like it hit Marmol right in the gut. He knocked it down and threw Parra out to finish off the win.
That's great! But seriously, this lefty/righty thing is overthinking much of the time, Dale. Now, on to the rest of this win, and the sweep.
Matt Garza was outstanding Sunday afternoon. If there were scouts in attendance -- and I'm sure there were -- they had to be as impressed today as they were watching Ryan Dempster on Saturday. Garza did run some long counts and the first three innings dragged a bit, but mostly, he had D'backs hitters mashing the ball into the ground. He gave up just five singles, issued one walk, struck out seven, and apart from the hits, only two D'back hitters managed to get the ball out of the infield off Garza, before he was lifted for pinch-hitter Reed Johnson.
All told, the Diamondbacks managed three runs in the entire series -- one in each game, and two of them were ultimately-harmless solo homers off relief pitchers (Shawn Camp was today's victim, an Aaron Hill blast in the eighth). That's impressive pitching, even with the performance of Cardiac Marmol.
The Cubs scratched across a run in the first inning on a David DeJesus walk, an advance on a wild pitch, and an Anthony Rizzo single. They might have had more if Rizzo hadn't ill-advisedly tried to take second on the throw in; it was cut off and Rizzo was cut down at second. Another walk, to Bryan LaHair in the second, was followed by Darwin Barney's fourth home run of the season; it landed not far from our section in left field. Barney's power this year is unexpected; he never hit four home runs in any minor-league season, and the four this year are in little more than half a year. He's also hit 18 doubles, so he's got a shot at a 30-double season.
The Cubs, of course, are still far under .500 -- 16 games under -- but have gone 12-4 since the beginning of the Mets series two weeks ago, and have done it with solid pitching and timely hitting, the way all the good teams do it. It might not mean much this season, but they do appear to be, at last, getting a team act together and building a base for future seasons to come.
The off day Monday is certainly a possibility for a trade to get done; there's more than 48 hours from the time of this post until the time of the next game, when the Marlins come to town for their only visit of 2012. That'll be interesting enough; so will the wait for possible deals.