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Rolling Along: Cubs 7, Astros 2

That's how this feels, doesn't it? The wins are starting to get routine... I know, I know, we shouldn't take anything for granted. But this team is winning games in a fashion we haven't seen since 1984, or maybe 1969, or maybe even in a lifetime that few of us have seen, the pre-1945 era when the Cubs actually won pennants every few years.

SHHHH! I know, it's early. Yesterday's 7-2 Cub win over the Astros, their ninth in their last 11 games, was the mark of what you see when a good team gets on a roll.

There, I said it: the Cubs are a good team. Maybe the best team in the league, though I do know there are still holes to be filled. Once again, different heroes showed up last night. Alfonso Soriano, so hot last week, cooled off by going 0-for-4 (with a walk, one of three that put the team total at 204). No matter. Geovany Soto decided to take matters into his own hands by hitting a ball to the far reaches of the Juice Box that nearly everyone except the umpires saw hit to the right of the yellow line -- that would have made it a home run by rule. The umpires, instead, said it was in play, and that made things more exciting, because the not-fleet Soto (who has zero SB attempts and only one triple in his ML career) flew around the bases for a three-run, inside-the-park HR.

We learned last night that it has been nearly 49 years since a Cub catcher last hit an inside-the-park HR. Cal Neeman, a not-very-good backup C (he hit only .162 that year), was the hitter, and what you didn't hear about that June 17, 1959 blast is that it broke a 2-2 tie in the 8th inning and won the game for the Cubs. See the play-by-play at the above link.

Jim Edmonds made one of his patented, back-to-the-plate, turn-my-shoulders-around, do-the-hokey-pokey catches in CF on that ridiculous hill in Houston. It made the highlight reels, but what wasn't said at the time is that Felix Pie would have made that catch in a routine manner, because Pie would have been playing deeper to begin with and because Pie is faster than Edmonds. It's been said that Edmonds deliberately plays shallow so he can make these catches look harder than they really are, and I think there's something to that. In any case, he did make the play and also had a single in five at-bats, which isn't going to make anyone forget that Pie could probably do everything Edmonds has done so far in a Cub uniform.

Ted Lilly wasn't great last night, but sharp enough, and when Michael Wuertz got hit hard by the only two batters he faced, Lou called on Carlos Marmol again. What we need is to get larger leads early, so that Marmol, who has now thrown in 23 of the first 45 games, doesn't have his arm fall off by the beginning of September. He's going to be just as needed in October (he said, optimistically) as he is now.

But these are quibbles. I shouldn't complain too much, because these Cubs seem to have a quiet confidence about going out there every day to win, and knowing that if one player goes cold (Derrek Lee, who has hit only .171 so far this month, may get a day off on Wednesday), someone else will pick up the slack. And of that, championship teams can be made. A nod also to Aramis Ramirez, who hit his first home run since April 23, to put the game out of reach in the ninth inning, and also to Bob Howry, who threw probably his best inning of the year so far to finish up. That's important because if Howry, Marmol and Kerry Wood are all throwing well, you can probably shut down virtually every game where the Cubs have the lead after six.

Notes: Chad Fox went on the DL with "ulnar neuritis" (fancy words for "sore elbow"), and Jose Ascanio was recalled from Iowa. Ascanio will wear uniform #58, which was last worn by Geovany Soto. May Ascanio have as much success as Soto has. Trivia: there have been only three other players: Ben Van Ryn (1998), Richard Barker (1999), and Mike Mahoney (2000,2002), and one coach (Fred Martin, 1961-1965), to ever wear #58. (Nod to BCB reader kaseyi and his all-time Cub uniform number page for the info.)

Cub streaks so far this year:

Lost 3 of first 4
Won 14 of next 17
Lost 9 of next 13
Won 9 of next 11

Finally, to differentiate the game recaps from game threads and other main-page posts, I am today starting, and will continue, to put the final score of the game in the recap title.