1989 was an unexpected season for the Cubs; coming off four bad years and 85 losses (and an 11-20 finish) in 1988, there's no way anyone would have thought the team would win the NL East in 1989.
But they got off to a decent start, and then moved into first place in late May. They battled the Mets, Expos and Cardinals through June and July and then took over the top spot to stay on August 7.
This game was at the tail end of a road trip, and featured some outstanding pitching.
Greg Maddux pitched his heart out tonight.
After Maddux threw 135 pitches (79 strikes) in 10 innings of work in a scoreless tie, the Cubs finally broke through for a run in the 10th. Honestly, it was kind of dull -- Gary Varsho led off the top of the 11th with a double. Damon Berryhill's fly ball to right advanced Varsho to third, and Lloyd McClendon hurt his former team by driving in the only run of the Cubs' 1-0 win over the Pirates with a sacrifice fly.
It was the Cubs' fourth win in a row, assuring them of a winning road trip (5-3 so far with one game to go), and they now lead the East by 2.5 games, since the Mets beat the Expos to drop Montreal into third place, three games back.
Give a little credit to the Pirates' Doug Drabek, who gave the Cubs just five hits (all singles) and three walks in nine scoreless innings before he was removed, having thrown 122 pitches (73 strikes).
But the story of the game was Maddux, whose record improved to 6-6 (despite a 2.91 ERA, the Cubs have scored just 49 runs in his 15 starts, 3.27 per start, and 15 of those runs were in the 15-3 win over the Mets on June 5). He allowed just six hits (five singles and a double) and issued four walks. In the bottom of the 10th, after Gary Redus had walked, he was sacrificed to second and stole third, putting the winning run 90 feet away with just one out. Maddux struck out Junior Ortiz for the second out, then issued two of those four walks intentionally (to R.J. Reynolds and Barry Bonds) before getting Jose Lind to ground to Vance Law to end the threat.
Mitch Williams, whose saves have often been way too exciting for my tastes, set the Pirates down 1-2-3 in the last of the 11th for his 18th save.
Oh, and did I mention Maddux at the bat? The Cubs had only eight hits all night. Maddux had three of them and is now hitting .303. Is there nothing he can't do?