It’s never too early to get a big win – even when it’s only the 3rd game of the young MLB season. That’s exactly what happened on Thursday, April 3rd, when the Cubs topped the Brewers 6-3 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs had looked awful in their first 2 games of the year against the Milwaukee Brewers – the team that most critics predicted would give the Cubs the toughest battle during the 162-game MLB marathon. The Brewers beat the Cubs 4-3 in extra innings in the MLB opener for each team. 2 days later the Brewers crushed the Cubs 8-2 to take a 2-game lead in the NL Central Division. The Cubs had played from behind all throughout the 1st four months of the 2007 MLB season, and a 3rd consecutive loss to the Brewers would once again put them in a serious hole. The Cubs needed a win, and they were sending their closer for the last 3 years – Ryan Dempster – to the mound to start to get that all-important victory.
In his first start since May 4, 2005, Dempster took the bump and settled in after a shaky 1st inning in which he gave up 2 runs (1 earned) to the Brewers. Dempster lasted 6 solid innings, giving up only 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5. He gave up only that 1 earned run in the 1st inning. Carlos Marmol resumed his set-up role with the same success he achieved in 2007, pitching the 7th and 8th innings, giving up 1 earned run on 2 hits. Marmol passed the baton over to Kerry Wood, who recorded the first save of his career with a 17-pitch 9th inning. Wood did give up 1 hit, but he struck out 2 batters to preserve the win for the Cubs.
The Cubs bats finally woke up as well. The Cubs tied the game at 2 in the 2nd inning on a Mark DeRosa RBI-single and a Geovany Soto sacrifice fly. The Cubs took the lead for good in the 4th inning in the most improbable way – a walk with the bases loaded to the least patient hitter in the Cubs lineup – Alfonso Soriano. Aramis Ramirez helped increase the lead to 4-2 with a solo home run in the 5th inning. And the Cubs rounded out their scoring with a Soriano RBI-single and Ryan Theriot RBI-double in the 6th inning.
The win produced a 2-game shift in the Cubs favor. While it may have seemed insignificant at the time, it’s never good to fall 3 games behind your toughest opponent that early in the season. It also set the tone for the season that Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood were set to have. Dempster went on to be the Cubs most reliable pitcher with a 17-6 record and a 2.96 ERA. Wood made 65 appearances during the season and ended up saving 34 games for the Cubs. For 2 guys in new roles, you couldn’t ask for anything more than that, and they were a big reason the Cubs found themselves with a 2nd consecutive NL Central Division title.