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Cubs 1, Giants 0: Pitching, Defense, & A Home Run

The Cubs had many unlikely heroes in a game that featured everything you see in the headline... and not much else.

Thearon W. Henderson

Well, there you have it: a complete summary of the Cubs' 1-0 win over the Giants, right there in the headline. Good enough, right? I'll be back with a Sunday game preview later this morning ...

Of course that's not enough, especially when there were a number of significant good performances by Cubs in a game where just one run was scored. (There were, incidentally, three other 1-0 games Saturday in the major leagues. That's the most 1-0 games on a single day since September 2, 2001, when there were also four.)

Since the score was 1-0, let's begin with the pitching. Chris Rusin was outstanding; this was the best start of his brief major-league career. He retired the first 13 batters he faced before Marco Scutaro singled. Rusin had the Giants beating the ball into the ground most of the evening and wound up allowing just three hits and two walks in seven shutout innings. He got helped out by his defense, particularly on the last out he recorded. Hunter Pence had led off the seventh with a double, and with two out Brandon Belt hit a screaming line drive that looked like it was headed for the right-field corner. But Anthony Rizzo leaped and caught it, to the cheers of the Cubs' bullpen right behind him.

Madison Bumgarner matched Rusin's performance, giving up only four hits and two walks in eight scoreless frames. Only one Cub reached second base in those eight innings, even though the Giants also made two errors.

When Dale Sveum lifted Rusin after seven -- even though Rusin had thrown just 90 pitches -- I thought it was the wrong thing to do, and Pedro Strop set about proving me right. Strop walked Gregor Blanco, and then made questionable plays on two bunts. The first one, he nearly threw into center field, and on the second, he glanced at third base just long enough to have Scutaro beat his throw to first.

Bases loaded, nobody out. This can't end well, can it?

It did. Strop recovered by getting two infield grounders -- the pulled-in infield worked twice, resulting in two force outs at the plate, and then Strop struck out Pence on some magnificent sliders, the kind of sliders we used to see from Carlos Marmol when he was good.

On to the ninth inning, still scoreless. With one out, up strode Nate Schierholtz against his former teammate, Giants closer Sergio Romo, who the Cubs had just beaten in the ninth inning the night before.

Schierholtz homered. For the ex-Giant, I found this most interesting:

That's in 580 career at-bats at AT&T Park. Schierholtz has hit seven home runs at Wrigley Field in his career -- in 140 at-bats. (All of Schierholtz' Wrigley homers have come this year, in 122 of those 140 at-bats.)

1-0 Cubs! The Cubs hadn't won a game 1-0 since May 9, 2012 at Wrigley Field (check out the box score -- eight of the 12 Cubs who played in that game are no longer with the team). Could Kevin Gregg and the team make this hold up?

Put this one in the category of "Nothing's ever easy." Gregg got the first man he faced, Jeff Francoeur, on an easy grounder to Darwin Barney. Then a single and two walks loaded the bases... again. Two innings in a row, the Cubs let their opponent load the bases in the late innings. Would this one end in disaster?

Dale Sveum came out to talk to Gregg. He must have said something like, "Get this guy to hit into a double play, I'm cold!", because Gregg's second pitch to pinch-hitter Tony Abreu, a splitter, was hit sharply to Rizzo, who turned it into a game-ending 3-2-3 double play. The Giants, playing the role of this year's early-season Cubs, went 1-for-10 with RISP and left 10 men on base. Nice to see someone else doing this.

That's a more-than-satisfying win in just about any way you can think of. And since Theo and Jed began the sell-off in earnest with the Scott Feldman trade July 2, the Cubs are 12-10, and many of those wins are against teams in the playoff hunt (Pirates, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Athletics).

Some of you might rather have this team lose and pick a few spots higher in the 2014 draft. Me, I'd rather see more wins. This is how you begin to build a winning culture.

The Cubs go for the sweep Sunday afternoon with Travis Wood facing Tim Lincecum. Believe it or not, the Cubs haven't swept a series of three games or more in San Francisco since June 20-22, 1977 (they've swept a pair of two-game series there since then). It's way past time. A win Sunday would also give the Cubs a winning road trip through the N.L. West, a division against whose teams the Cubs went 1-17 on the road last year.

A satisfying win. Now let's make it a satisfying sweep.