That was great theater, wasn't it?
Before a near-sellout of 39,945 on a night that was, by the end, starting to get cold, the Cubs provided 9th and 10th inning dramatics that had Wrigley Field rocking as I have never heard it for a regular season game this early in the year, and Alfonso Soriano shut up his critics (for a day, at least) by poking a single into left field, scoring Mike Fontenot with the winning run in an excruciatingly exciting 2-1 Cubs win over the Dodgers, completing the Cubs' fourth three-game sweep at home this season, moving their home record to a spectacular 22-8, pushing them 11 games over .500 for the first time since the last day of the ill-fated 2004 season, and... remarkably:
After 118 seasons of competition between the Cubs and the Dodgers, their all-time series is now dead-even: 1,010 wins for each team. I thought about this and these two franchises have traded periods of dominance. When the Cubs were a great team in the early years of the 20th Century, the Dodgers were horrid. When the Dodgers were winning ten pennants in the 20 years from 1947-66, the Cubs were awful.
But now: 2,020 games split down the middle. History is turning around.
Remind me again why the Cubs need another starting pitcher? They allowed an admittedly hurting LA "offense" three runs in this series, and the only one Carlos Zambrano allowed last night was on a bases-loaded walk after he had helped load the bases by hitting Matt Kemp. Z admitted in his postgame comments that he knew he didn't have his best stuff or command; he walked four, tying his season high, and had to get, essentially, five outs in that tense eighth inning because his defense deserted him (Mark DeRosa let a ball go off his glove which was ruled a hit, and Ryan Theriot made a throwing error, both of which could have been outs). Z threw an alarmingly high total of 130 pitches -- something we haven't seen since the Baker era. However, Lou said in his own postgame remarks that he'll keep Z on a short leash in his next start and also, he left Z in to finish the 8th partly because of the fans:
"I let the fans make that decision," he said of the applause that resulted when he left Zambrano in. "I told [Dodger third base coach] Larry Bowa 'I know how to make decisions to please the fans.'"
He was kidding. I think.
Anyway, other than the one inning where the Dodgers scored, Z was pretty solid, as were Derek Lowe and Jonathan Broxton, who kept the Cubs off the board through eight. The Cubs hit Lowe pretty hard, but everything was right at people. Broxton was throwing gas; he struck out Reed Johnson, a totally overmatched Micah Hoffpauir, and Alfonso Soriano. And usually, when Takashi Saito enters, that's it. But Saito was off last night, and thank the newly-patient Cubs for drawing two walks, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez, sandwiched around a Derrek Lee flyout. That's only the fourth time in 156 career appearances that Saito has walked two batters in one inning.
Big credit to Kosuke Fukudome for his hustle in beating out an infield grounder to load the bases; Geovany Soto tied the game with a sac fly, and then the Cubs bullpen held on -- Bob Howry, who's getting better, it seems, with each game he throws, pitched an uneventful 10th, setting up the last of the 10th (with half the crowd having left after the 9th, but those of us who remained were just as loud as those you heard at home in the bottom of the 9th).
Jim Edmonds was nowhere to be seen -- not starting against Lowe, nor pinch-hitting in the 10th; we're all happy with the Mike Fontenot double that started the winning rally, but just one day after Lou said this of Edmonds:
"Every time a right-hander has pitched, we've had him in the lineup," Piniella said of Edmonds, whom the Cubs acquired after he was released by San Diego on May 9.
Well, not last night against the RHP Lowe, he didn't start. Lou also said in that article:
"I don't have time limits," Piniella said about Edmonds. "The only problem I have here as a manager is I have a young man named Hoffpauir, and I want to see what he can do, so it creates a little bit of a situation for me as a manager.
"Outside of that, there's no timetable on anything," Piniella said. "[Hoffpauir] has had two good springs for us, and he's hit the ball well. We'd like to have a little clarification also."
As I wrote above, Hoffpauir looked totally lost against Jonathan Broxton. So where does this leave Edmonds? He'll sit tonight, obviously, against LHP Jeff Francis. After that... who knows?
We have seen this Cub team win by scoring buckets of runs; coming back from big deficits; and coming back now two days in a row from 1-0 deficits, late, with timely hitting and plate discipline. Yes, this is the Cubs I'm talking about. It feels diffent. It IS different. The Cubs have the best record in the major leagues this morning, tied once again with the Rays. Onward. And maybe the Cubs should invite ESPN more often. We're showing those East Coast guys that there's exciting baseball played outside of NYC and Boston.
Click on photos to open a larger version in a new browser window. All photos by David Sameshima