Hey Cubs Fans – - it’s never too late to develop a winning formula. Good pitching and timely hitting usually results in numerous wins. The Cubs – at least since the All-Star Break – can attest to that. Except for Ted Lilly’s debacle against the Phillies in Philadelphia on July 20th, the Cubs have had excellent pitching and solid, often-clutch hitting, and the results show. Since the All-Star Break, the Cubs have put together a solid 9-2 record to take over 1st place from the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race. Great pitching, coupled with excellent hitting from Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano has catapulted the Cubs into the lead.
In last night’s 5-1 win in 13 innings over the 2nd place Astros, pitching took center stage for much of the game. Carlos Zambrano put together another solid outing – 7 innings, 1 ER, 7 hits and 4 walks. The lone run scored on Carlos Lee’s home run in the 2nd inning. Aaron Heilman, Carlos Marmol, Jeff Stevens and Sean Marshall combined to pitch 4 straight scoreless innings from the 8th throught the 11th innings. And Jeff Samardzija threw 2 scoreless innings and picked up his 1st win of the 2009 MLB schedule when Alfonso Soriano stroked his walk-off game-winning Grand Slam off of Chris Sampson to the delight of the Wrigley faithful.
That’s a perfect lead-in to the Cubs offense. Although it wasn’t all good (Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot were a combined 0 for 12 in the 1-2 spot at the top of the order, while Soriano was 0 for 5 heading into his 13th inning at-bat), Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez continued their hot hitting. Lee hit a solo home run off of Wandy Rodriguez in the 4th inning to tie the game at 1 and also drew 3 walks, 1 of which started the Cubs rally in the 13th. Ramirez notched 3 hits and raised his batting average to .338. Ramirez’s single in the 13th moved Lee to 3rd base and forced Astros’ Manager Cecil Cooper’s hands to intentionally walk Milton Bradley to load the bases to face Soriano. The move back-fired in a hurry as Soriano launched the game-winning shot deep to center field to give the Cubs the dramatic 5-1 win. It was Soriano’s 4th career Grand Slam and he had this to say about the swing – - “I think that’s my best swing I made in the second half.” Id’ agree.
The Cubs increased their winning streak to 5 games and they increased their lead over the Astros to 3 games and the Brewers to 4 games. How long will the streak go – guess we’ll just have to wait and see…