Whatever this late-season surge eventually means, the Cubs sure have been a lot of fun to watch over the last week.
6-1 since last Sunday, they beat the Giants for the third time in a row 6-2 on Saturday afternoon, pushing the Giants farther back in their attempt to take the NL Wild Card. This win both won this series for the Cubs, as well as the season series, from the Giants.
And later last night, the Cubs were eliminated from the NL Central race when the Cardinals beat the Rockies in Denver, so the Cubs' string of consecutive division titles ends at just two. They'll simply have to start another streak next season.
Aramis Ramirez has played in 79 games this year, just short of half a season, and many of those games were played with his shoulder far less than 100% after it was dislocated in Milwaukee on May 8. He hit his 15th HR of the season and now has 64 RBI -- that would put him on a pace for 130 RBI, which would currently rank third in the National League (and also third among all ML players, since the AL leader, Mark Teixeira, has 119). The Cubs are 42-34 with him in the starting lineup, 39-39 without. This all goes to show how much the Cub offense missed A-Ram; things might be very different now had they won even half of the games in the disastrous May road trip to St. Louis and San Diego where they scored six total runs in the six games, part of an eight-game losing streak.
Tom Gorzelanny is beginning to make a case for himself for the 2010 starting rotation. He made another solid start yesterday, throwing five innings and allowing only five singles and a run. In six starts as a Cub, Gorz has thrown 28.2 innings, allowed 28 hits and only nine walks and struck out 33 while posting a 4.08 ERA -- and that includes his horrific start in Denver on August 10, when he allowed six runs in less than two innings. Gorzelanny will have to increase his stamina and lower his pitch counts -- only one of his Cub starts has been longer than six innings, his first on August 4 vs. the Reds, but he clearly has talent.
As bad an offseason as Jim Hendry had last winter, give him credit for that trade -- he got Gorzelanny and John Grabow from the Pirates for, essentially, nothing.
The rest of the Cubs also had fun yesterday, even without Derrek Lee (who should be back today) -- they piled up 13 hits and seven walks off Barry Zito and four Giants relievers, including our old pal Bob Howry, who was making his first appearance against his former teammates. All told, three Cubs (Jake Fox, Reed Johnson and Micah Hoffpauir -- who didn't even start the game) had a pair of hits.
For those of you who don't live in the handful of cities that carried yesterday's game, consider yourselves lucky. Chris Rose, the play-by-play man, and Jose Mota, the analyst, were horrendous. When Giants catcher Buster Posey dropped a foul popup, Rose said, "That reminds me of the play in the 1980 World Series when Bob Boone dropped one and Pete Rose caught it." Well, sure, Chris, it's just like that play from game six of the 1980 WS. Except that the ball in that game was caught, and the one yesterday wasn't. Listening to those two was painful. I'd almost rather have had Josh Lewin and Mark Grace doing the game.
OK, the complaint department is now closed. The Cubs have been playing solid baseball that's enjoyable to watch. And that's always a good thing. Today's game preview post will be up at 1 pm CDT.