The category of "wins" for starting pitchers means less now than ever, with the advent of specialized bullpens and the very small number of complete games in baseball.
No pitcher this year is better evidence of that than Matt Garza, who has been the Cubs' most consistent starter most of the season. The Cubs are just 11-15 in Garza's 25 starts, largely because the bullpen has blown four games in which Garza left with the lead. That has also resulted in Garza's W/L record being just a mediocre 7-10. He's also received mediocre run support, ranking just 51st of 74 qualified starters in the National League.
But Garza has been every bit the pitcher that the Cubs expected when they traded several prospects for him last winter. Among other things, he has 16 more strikeouts than he did in 2010, despite facing 174 fewer batters. And Tuesday night in San Francisco, he also had the first two-hit game of his career, helping lead the Cubs to their second straight win over the Giants, 5-2. Garza is also on track to have the best ERA and K/BB ratio of his career, and allow the fewest home runs -- something no one predicted for him, coming from a pitcher's park in Tampa as his home field to the home run haven that is Wrigley Field.
Speaking of home runs, Alfonso Soriano hit a monstrous solo shot to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the second inning. It cleared the bleacher seats in left field and landed on the concourse behind -- if you have ever been to the park in San Francisco, that is a long way from home plate. Though Soriano's BA and OBP are pretty low, he has hit for power, with a perfectly acceptable SLG of .480. His home run was his 24th -- I swear, he could wind up with 30+ this year and people would still complain -- and it was the 39th home run the Cubs have hit this month, which leads all MLB teams. Soriano drove in another run in the fourth.
With the score 3-2 in the seventh, Geovany Soto, who finally broke a horrific slump Monday with a home run, doubled with the bases loaded to drive in two runs. It probably should have been three, but a fan decided to scoop up the ball before left fielder Brandon Belt could get to it. Replays appeared to show Tyler Colvin rounding third when that was happening; Colvin likely would have scored, but Mike Quade's argument to the umpiring crew didn't get anywhere.
It didn't matter, as the bullpen -- Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol (31st save) -- did its job and finished off the win. It's possible Marmol has a shot at 40 saves; if he gets there he'd become only the third pitcher in Cubs history (Randy Myers, 1993 and Rod Beck, 1998, both of whom had over 50) to get there.
So the Cubs clinched the season series from the Giants, leading 5-3 with one game remaining. They'll also have a winning month of August, their first winning month since September 2010. I kind of feel bad for the Giants, trying to defend their World Series title without Buster Posey; their offense is virtually nonexistent. They've scored 456 runs, an average of just 3.35 per game and 57 runs than the next-lowest team, the Nationals. In their last seven games -- against the fifth and sixth place teams in the NL Central -- they have scored 2, 1, 2, 2, 3, 0 and 2 runs. If they keep up their run-scoring pace for the entire season, they will score 543 runs, which is only 30 more than the awful 2010 Mariners, losers of 101 games, had.
As I said, I kind of feel bad, but not so much that I don't want the Cubs to finish the sweep this afternoon. It would neatly bookend August, as the Cubs began it with a four-game sweep in Pittsburgh. The last time the Cubs swept a series in San Francisco was in 1993. This afternoon's game preview will post at 1 p.m. CDT.