The Cubs completed their second doubleheader sweep of the season behind the bat -- and glove -- of Kyle Schwarber.
They clinched a winning season, their first since 2009, with this win, at 82-58. They stood 5½ games behind the Cardinals, two games behind the Pirates, and 9½ games ahead of the Giants for the second wild card.
That was the day humans first landed on the moon. It was two stadiums ago for the Phillies. And it was in a year that many of us were sure the Cubs were going to the World Series.
We all know how that ended up, and we don't yet know the ending of baseball's 2015 story. But this year's Cubs do things nearly every day that "haven't been done since" some long-ago time, almost as if they're trying to make up for all the team's historic failures.
Obviously, that's not really what's going on. This team is making its own history seemingly unencumbered by anything, and Friday's second-game win, 7-3 over the Phillies, showed the ballclub clicking on all cylinders. (Incidentally, that "no sweeps since 1969" actually includes a significant number of doubleheaders. Between 1970 and 1990, the last time the Cubs played a DH in Philly before Friday, the teams played 15 doubleheaders there. The Phillies swept three and 12 were split.)
Kyle Schwarber began the scoring in the first inning with a magnificent home run on the first pitch he saw from Phillies rookie Alec Asher. He hit his second homer of the game on the second pitch he saw from Asher in the second inning, and did a faceplant rounding first base:
Easy to laugh at those with such an easy win, right? Schwarber wound up 2-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBI, obviously not bothered at all by the minor rib injury that kept him out for five games last week.
Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks was putting together one of his better recent efforts. He pitched into the seventh inning for the first time since August 1 and allowed just four hits and a pair of walks before being lifted with two out in the seventh after 90 pitches. The Cubs are going to need efforts like this from Hendricks down the stretch and in the postseason. This time, the bullpen did what they needed to do: Pedro Strop, Travis Wood, Fernando Rodney and Hector Rondon (28th save) threw 2⅓ innings, allowing one hit and striking out four. Rondon, though, had to be summoned after Rodney gave up a single and hit a batter in the ninth. I suspect Joe Maddon would have preferred to get through this one without having to use Rondon.
Kris Bryant was the other hitting hero in Game 2. He had three hits, including his 24th home run, drove in three runs and now has 90 RBI on the season. His 87th RBI, posted in Game 1, broke the Cubs single-season rookie RBI record which had been held by Billy Williams (1961) and Geovany Soto (2008). One more home run will tie Williams for the team rookie home-run record.
Miguel Montero also had three hits and Chris Coghlan had two and overall the Cubs' 12-hit attack included going 3-for-9 with RISP. They did exactly what they should have when facing a bad team starting two rookie pitchers in this doubleheader: hit them early and often.
Schwarber capped off his two-homer night with a nice running catch of a Ryan Howard drive to deep left field:
The win was the Cubs' 82nd of the year and clinched the team's first winning season in six years. That's nice, but this team has more lofty goals.
Here's how the Cubs stand in the wild-card and division races. The Pirates won Friday night, so the Cubs still trail them by two games for the top wild-card spot. The Nationals lost again, so the Cubs' magic number to eliminate them dropped to 12. The elimination number for the Giants is 13 after San Francisco won Friday night.
And the doubleheader sweep allowed the Cubs to pick up a full game on the Cardinals. They trail St. Louis by six games and the Cardinals must play some extra baseball Saturday. Their Friday night game in Cincinnati was suspended in the eighth inning, tied 2-2. It will be resumed at 11:35 a.m. CT today, followed by Saturday's regularly-scheduled game. If the Reds can win the suspended game as well as the other one, and the Cubs beat the Phillies again... the Cubs would trail St. Louis by just 4½ games.
A longshot? Sure. But then, this whole season has had these sorts of things happen quite often for the Cubs, and for their benefit.
The Cubs will, of course, have to take care of their own business. They'll know the Cardinals result before they take the field in Philadelphia Saturday night, once again facing a rookie pitcher. Dan Haren goes for the Cubs and Jerad Eickhoff for the Phillies.