That's a scene we want to see many, many times over, oh, say the next 15 years or so -- Anthony Rizzo jumping (not too high, of course! Don't hurt yourself!) into a happy mob of Cubs waiting for him at home plate after a walkoff home run.
Rizzo's homer, following a 10th-inning leadoff single by Starlin Castro, gave the Cubs a 4-2 win over the Cardinals; of the six wins the Cubs now have this season over St. Louis, four of them are walkoffs.
It came not a moment too soon; not long after the game ended, some light rainshowers invaded the north side of Chicago (probably not hard enough to have held up the game if it had still been going). That ended a fun two days at Wrigley Field; after the Cardinals bombarded the Cubs with home runs on Friday, the Cubs won the series with some excellent pitching and timely hitting. Hmmm. Maybe this team is headed in the right direction after all.
And if you couldn't see him in the pileup around the plate, Ryan Dempster was among the Cubs racing out of the dugout to greet Rizzo -- still, as of this writing, a member of our favorite team. With fewer than 48 hours remaining until the non-waiver deadline at 3 p.m. CT Tuesday, I still think he'll be somewhere else before his scheduled start that night against the Pirates.
Before Rizzo's walkoff, Paul Maholm turned in yet another excellent outing. Just how excellent has he been?
Paul Maholm 1st #Cubs LHP starter in modern history to have 6 straight starts of at least 6 IP and allowing 1 or fewer runs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 29, 2012
Before June 29, when Maholm's streak started, he had a 5.38 ERA; it's dropped by more than a run and a half since then, to 3.74 following Sunday's start. He ran into trouble in the seventh inning after he threw the first six with just two hits and two walks allowed; he walked two more after a pair of hits and a sac fly scored the first Cardinals run (and give Joe Mather credit for that catch; it nearly went by him). After the second walk, Maholm was lifted and Manuel Corpas finished off the inning without incident.
Credit to Theo and Jed for the Maholm signing -- an inexpensive deal that has a team-friendly option for 2013. I could see Maholm having a Ted Lilly-type career in his early 30s -- Lilly struggled at times before he hit 30, and had his best years between ages 31 and 35, for the Cubs. Maholm could definitely do that; he just turned 30 last month.
Meanwhile, the Cubs had taken a 2-0 lead in the first two innings on some solid hitting by David DeJesus, Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano (more hustle today, legging out a double on a short popup into right field) and Darwin Barney, plus a nice piece of hitting by Maholm when he faked a bunt and pulled the bat back, grounding back to Adam Wainwright, whose throw to shortstop got Luis Valbuena -- but the relay was thrown away, allowing Barney to score.
Shawn Camp had a rare bad outing, giving up a game-tying home run to Carlos Beltran and then a double to David Freese, but he got out of it, sending it to the ninth inning tied. The Cubs had the lead and/or winning run in scoring position in both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not get it home, setting up Rizzo's heroics in the 10th.
I cannot leave this out of today's recap. I got a message from BCBer elgato late in the game asking me if Carlos Marmol was "gonna get some love". Well, I cannot deny this; Marmo's outing Sunday was one of his best of the season. He got Jon Jay on an easy grounder to Rizzo, Daniel Descalso on another routine grounder to Barney, and then struck out Allen Craig on a nasty slider in the dirt. Today, Marmol trusted his slider (eight of his 11 pitches were sliders) and it was working. Let's hope this continues.
And credit to Theo and Jed for the Rizzo trade, too; right now that deal looks like it's a big advantage: Cubs. More from Rizzo:
Says #Cubs Rizzo: "This is something I've always dreamed of doing since I was a little kid ... This is awesome."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 29, 2012
Awesome is right. Obviously, this team needs to get better players in many roles, but at least they've got one who looks like a keeper, for many years to come.