Cubs 9, Rangers 2: A Winning Interlude

David Banks

Run-scoring! Great pitching! A standing ovation! (Oh, wait, That last thing was for another Chicago team.)

The Texas Rangers made a stop in Chicago on their way to a series in Milwaukee against the Brewers, to make up the game that was rained out at Wrigley Field April 17.

They shouldn't have bothered; a Rangers offense that had scored 16 runs in a sweep of the Red Sox over the weekend had just three singles through eight innings, until Rafael Dolis allowed them a couple of consolation runs in the ninth. The 9-2 Cubs triumph represented both their highest run total of the 2013 season to date and their biggest margin of victory. The Cubs have still played just two games decided by more than four runs; that's still the fewest of any team (next-lowest total: four, by the White Sox, Giants and Orioles).

Scott Feldman. The Rangers had to be wondering where this guy was through the eight years he played for their team, because for the second straight start, he almost completely baffled his opponent. Dale Sveum let him start the eighth inning, since Feldman had thrown 102 pitches through seven, but after going to a 2-0 count on David Murphy, Feldman signaled for the trainer and left the game to a loud ovation. The postgame report indicated his hand had "cramped up", but apparently it's nothing serious and he should be fine for his next start.

There was an even louder ovation when Feldman came to bat in the seventh inning, but that was for the Bulls, whose improbable playoff run continued with their 93-86 upset win in Game 1 of their second-round series against the Heat. It was a lot noisier than anyone could have expected out of a crowd that was maybe one-third of the announced total of tickets sold, not surprising for a makeup game.

Until that eighth-inning glitch, it appeared that Feldman might even have a shot at again completing a game. That got me interested: who was the last Cubs pitcher to throw back-to-back CG? It's been a while. Greg Maddux is the answer to that one (but see below for an alternative response to this); he shut out the Reds July 17, 2004 and threw a complete game in his next start against the Brewers July 22, 2004. Since then, just five Cubs pitchers have even thrown two complete games in an entire season: Maddux and Carlos Zambrano in 2005, Rich Hill in 2006 (and that's the alternative answer; one of those was a rain-shortened five-inning game, and those were also back-to-back); and Matt Garza and Randy Wells in 2011.

Perhaps Feldman will get another shot at a complete game this year; after two mediocre-to-bad starts to begin his Cubs career, Feldman has a 1.63 ERA and 0.795 WHIP in his last four outings, covering 27⅔ innings. If not for his own bad defense (throwing error) in Milwaukee, he might have gone farther in that one, too.

The Cubs put this one away with a five-run fourth inning, which all happened with two out and no one on base. (Yes, that really was the situation.) The big hits were two-run singles by Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo later roped a two-run homer on a line into the right-field bleachers in the eighth, completing the scoring. The Cubs also stole a couple of bases off their old friend Geovany Soto in the first inning, one by Alfonso Soriano. Raise your hand if you knew that on May 7, the Cubs' stolen base leaders (with four each) would be Soriano, Rizzo and Nate Schierholtz. Rizzo is heating up along with the weather; for the season his OPS is now over .900 (.905) with a .262/.348/.557 line and he's hitting .439/.521/.829 with seven doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI in his last 11 games. So if you were worried about Rizzo, you can stop now. He also still has ridiculous reverse splits: .326/.408/.651 in 43 AB vs. LHP and .228/.315/.506 in 89 AB vs. RHP. Imagine how good he'll be when he finally starts hitting righthanders.

It was a coolish night, though not cold, and many stayed away not only because it was a makeup game, but presumably to watch the Bulls game. Those who did missed the Cubs' best overall performance of the year to date. In the long run, it might not mean much. But these are surely more fun for everyone than losing.

The Cubs will have their third different opponent in the last three days when the Cardinals begin an abbreviated two-game series Tuesday night; Travis Wood faces Lance Lynn.

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