A soft rain began falling in the middle innings, let up, then started falling again right as the Cubs' 8-4 win over the Rockies was ending; as I walked out of the park with my son Mark (attending a night game on a school night because all his schoolwork for the year is done), he said, "That looks cool in the lights."
It did. And so did all of last night's game. The title of this post is one of the reasons I'm really starting to like this team -- beyond its now major-league-best 33-21 record, after the mighty Rays were vanquished by the White Sox -- it's how each of the members of this year's Cubs seem to pick each other up when one falters.
Jason Marquis threw pretty well last night, getting through five innings mostly unscathed. He got in trouble in the sixth, and loaded the bases, forcing Lou to yank him for the just-recalled Neal Cotts. Cotts nearly got out of it, but when he walked Todd Helton to re-load the bases after Willy Taveras' two-run pinch single had tied it (the two runs charged, of course, to Marquis), Michael Wuertz picked up Cotts by striking out Garrett Atkins with the bases loaded.
And then, after Wuertz had coughed up the lead in the top of the seventh -- and it could have been worse if not for a nice snare of a sinking line drive by Reed Johnson in CF, who flipped to Mark DeRosa for an inning-ending DP (Johnson could have run in and done it himself, that's how far off second Ian Stewart was) -- the Cubs came right back with a couple of dinky singles, some shoddy fielding by Rockies pitcher Matt Herges, and a nice AB by Geovany Soto with the bases loaded to tie the game with a sac fly.
The rest of the team put the game away in the 8th inning, with the crowd of 39,851 on its feet roaring, DeRosa led off with a double, and when Johnson tried to sacrifice, there was more bad fielding by a Rockies pitcher, this time Taylor Buchholz throwing the ball away, and then everyone hit; Micah Hoffpauir got his first ML RBI (I thought of calling my friend Phil, who had called to give me grief about Hoffpauir earlier in the day by claiming he was going to start -- yeah, right, Phil, against a LHP), and then Alfonso Soriano put the game out of Kerry Wood save reach with his 2nd RBI of the night. About the crowd, I am beginning to notice something I saw during 2003, as the season went on and the games took on more importance -- the amount of idiot behavior is being drastically reduced. Why? Because everyone's into the action on the field. As it should be.
Soriano now has 31 RBI, despite missing two weeks. In 2007, missing about the same amount of time early in the year, he didn't get his 31st RBI until July 2.
Derrek Lee -- same thing. He hit his 13th HR of the year tonight. Last year he hit his 13th HR on August 14. (Incidentally, before last night, Jeff Francis had never retired D-Lee. He did twice -- but also gave up that HR, the first XBH that Lee had off him. Prior to last night, Lee was 6-for-6 off Francis, all singles.)
This was a total team effort and I salute this team for gelling like this, one-third of the way through after last night, on pace for 99 wins, which would be the most for a Cubs team since 1935. Now, this is kind of a "chicken or the egg" argument: does winning breed good team chemistry, or does good team chemistry breed winning? I'll say it's a little of both, with a lot of talent, ability and good management mixed in. This team has, despite its flaws which we discuss every day on this site, enough of all of that, at least it would appear so as May draws to a close.
We were joined for Thursday's game by BCB reader simonuk, here visiting from England, sitting in the bleachers for the first time, and also Sarah Hope, who was happy to see her hero Kerry Wood pitch (Jon Lieber started to warm up after the Cubs took a four-run lead, but Lou said in his postgame remarks that Wood was ready, so that's why he was used). Kerry mixed up his fastballs and breaking stuff well and you can see that he's starting to trust his offspeed pitches more and more each outing. With only 17 pitches thrown, he should be available tomorrow.
And not that I'm superstitious or anything, but in each of the three night games this week, the Cubs have been trailing going into the bottom of the 7th, and I have taken that opportunity to visit the men's room. And each night, the Cubs have mounted a comeback after that. Just sayin'.
And all of you should pitch in so I can take my son more often. His personal record is now 6-0. (And he got two baseballs during BP last night.) I'll have a game thread up in a few hours.