In no way does today's 5-3 Cubs come-from-behind win over the Pirates solve all the problems this team admittedly has.
But it sure feels good, doesn't it?
This wasn't just a come-from-behind win, either. The Cubs caught a break when Lyle Overbay couldn't handle Marlon Byrd's sharp ground ball which could have been turned into an easy out. But other Cubs teams might not have taken advantage of the error; instead, the Cubs got three hits and a key walk after Carlos Pena flied to center for the second out of the inning. Alfonso Soriano stepped up with his RBI single that tied the game, and after Tyler Colvin had an excellent AB working a walk, Blake DeWitt hit Chris Resop's first pitch the other way for the two-run double that won it. That's one of the best innings I've seen the Cubs have in quite some time -- working counts, waiting for the pitch you want, and taking pitches the other way for RBI hits.
In addition to that, the top three pitchers in the Cubs bullpen -- Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol -- did exactly what they were set up to do: face hitters in the seventh through ninth innings and shut opponents down. Wood took over when Carlos Zambrano left with "cramping" in his right hand (doesn't sound serious) with a 2-2 count on Ronny Cedeno. The resulting walk was charged to Z, and after that, Wood allowed nothing, striking out a pair; Marshall had a 1-2-3 eighth, and Marmol was outstanding, striking out the side and throwing 11 strikes in 15 pitches.
That's the way this team is built to win -- with solid starting pitching and great late-inning bullpen work. Z struggled with his command early, but settled down and then was yanked after allowing a home run to Garrett Jones. I didn't have a problem today with Mike Quade leaving his starter in to begin the seventh -- Z threw 99 pitches, which for him isn't too bad, and hoping this "cramping" turns out to be nothing. He won't throw until next Friday in Milwaukee, where the game will be indoors anyway, out of today's 46-degree cold. The day was tolerable when the sun came out -- the sun got bigger cheers than pretty much anything the Cubs did before the eighth inning. Z also got the Cubs' first extra-base hit of the season, a double with two out in the third inning.
As befits the second game of the season, things were quieter around Wrigley Field this morning, with few people around early and all the morning radio shows packed up and gone. The Cubs didn't even take batting practice today -- for the first seven innings of the game that seemed like a bad idea, until they unleashed their ten-batter rally in the eighth.
Attendance today was announced as 35,782. Well, actually, it wasn't -- the "attendance guess" posted in the middle of the eighth inning had yesterday's numbers on the message board; when yesterday's total of 41,358 was posted as the "correct answer", they must have realized it was wrong because new PA announcer Andrew Belleson didn't read the number. The 35,782 figure was, of course, tickets sold; it looked like about 26,000-27,000 in the house. The bleachers were pretty full; the rest of the park had empty sections in the LF and RF corners and scattered empty seats elsewhere. Many left early due to the cold and wind; they may have regretted that after the comeback. Today, BCB'er Zeke joined us in the bleachers with a yellow "Pirate" voodoo doll he bought at a truck stop on the way to Chicago. Whether that had anything to do with today's win, it was a fun diversion. (Of course I know that didn't really have anything to do with it.)
Speaking of Andrew Belleson, he's doing a nice job. His voice and style are very reminiscent of Paul Friedman's, and I know Paul worked with him this past week. One thing I'd like to see him do is, when announcing lineup changes, give the batting order spot as well as the name. Today, in the ninth inning, when Marmol and Darwin Barney both came in the game, Marmol was slotted in the No. 7 spot, somewhat illogically.
But that's a nitpick on a nice afternoon after a nice win. Tomorrow, with another chance of rain (but warmer temps in the 60s), Matt Garza makes his Cubs debut and the Cubs can take this series.