Chicago Cubs fans’ greatest fears were upon them. The “collapse” was happening. After taking a big lead in the National League Central Division, that lead had dwindled down to 1 game following the All-Star Break. The Cubs had only won 4 of 10 games to start the 2nd half of the season, while the Milwaukee Brewers were surging ahead behind recent pick – ace CC Sabbathia – who was leading the Brewers to complete game victories in just about every start. The Cubs were getting ready to face the team that trailed them by 1 game – that same Brewers club – in a big 4 game series at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Cubs had to face the Brewers top 2 pitchers – recent pick up CC Sabbathia and Ben Sheets – in the first 2 games of the season. A split would keep the Cubs 1 game ahead. Worst case, the Cubs lose 3 and are still only 1 game out of first place. Cubs fans couldn’t even mutter that dreaded word “sweep”, a potential Brewers sweep that would put the Cubs down 3 games in the division they had led all season long.
So what happened? The un-imaginable.
Game 1 – Cubs 6, Brewers 4 – Lilly v. Sabbathia. The Cubs roughed up Sabbathia for 9 hits and 4 runs in only 6 2/3 innings. The Cubs led for most of the game until Russell Branyan tied the game at 4 with a solo home run in the 7th inning. The Cubs scored 2 runs in the 9th inning on an RBI-double by Derrek Lee and an infield single by Mark DeRosa. Carlos Marmol picked up the save by striking out 2 Brewers batters and walking one in the 9th inning. Cubs increase lead to 2 games.
Game 2 – Cubs 7, Brewers 1 – Zambrano v. Sheets. Carlos Zambrano picked up his 12th win of the season, dominating the Brewers over 8 scoreless innings, giving up only 5 hits and striking out 9. Aramis Ramirez had 4 hits for the Cubs, while Kosuke Fukodome and Mark DeRosa each had 2 RBI’s. The Cubs jumped all over Ben Sheets – knocking him around for 6 earned runs on 11 hits in only 5 1/3 innings of work. Cubs increase lead to 3 games.
Game 3 – Cubs 7, Brewers 2 – Dempster v. Parra. Now it was Ryan Dempster’s turn to silence the Brewers. Dempster hurled 7 innings of 1-run, 5-hit ball, striking out 9 along the way. He picked up his 12th win in the process. Once again, the Cubs bats came to play – Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot and Reed Johnson each had 3 hits for the Cubs, while Theriot also drove in 3 runs. Brewers starter Manny Parra lasted only 5 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 earned runs. Cubs increase lead to 4 games.
Could it be a sweep in the Cubs direction???!!!
Game 4 – Cubs 11, Brewers 4 – WOW – Cubs Sweep! Cubs Sweep! Cubs Sweep! After Jim Edmonds gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning with a solo home run, Edmonds blew the game wide open with a Grand Slam in the 4th inning, giving the Cubs a commanding 5-0 lead. The Cubs added 4 more runs in the 8th inning and 2 more runs in the 9th inning to close out the Cubs attack. Rich Harden pitched another gem for the Cubs – 7 innings, 1 earned run, 6 hits and 9 strikeouts. Cubs increase lead to 5 games.
The series truly turned the tide for the Cubs ball club. The had hit a bump in the road and could have decided to continue to free fall. Instead, each Cubs starter dug deep and kept his team in the game right from the start. And the Cubs bats picked a perfect time to get hot in unison. The Cubs sweep rejuvenated a team that was questioning itself, and demoralized a team that had been riding high.