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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 - Cubs Back On Top!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cubs Back On Top!


Unlikely Heroes Help Cubs Sweep Snakes, take over NL Central

Last October the surging Chicago Cubs and the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks met for what most assumed would be a hotly contested NLDS series. Three straight losses later, the Cubs were knocked into their off-season prematurely while Arizona moved on to face the upstart Colorado Rockies.

When the NL West-leading D'Bags, er, D'Backs, came back into town this past weekend, last season's disappointing and embarrassing sweep was certainly on the minds of the Cubs and their fans. Clutch performances from the unlikeliest of heroes helped the Northsiders sweep the snakes in three straight come-from-behind victories.

Game 1: Cubs Win 3-1
In game 1, a struggling Ted Lilly finally found control on the mound and contact at the plate. The southpaw gave up a solo shot to Chris Young in the first inning but surrendered just three more hits through seven innings while posting 10 strikeouts. Down 1-0 with two outs in the fifth, the Cubs had a man on 2nd when Arizona elected to walk Reed Johnson to get to Lilly. A .124 career hitter, Lilly calmly knocked an RBI single up the middle to tie the game.

Lilly's RBI was a happy surprise. The play that followed—an Alfonso Soriano double that scored the go-ahead run—was a relief. After a sluggish start saw fans and media calling for his head, things only got worse for Soriano—a strained right calf that kept him out for 15 days. It's hard to imagine that a guy given one of the richest contracts in baseball history was batting .175 after the first 13 games of the season, but one needn't look farther than Barry Zito's ERA to understand expensive busts.


Game 2: Cubs Win 7-2
Fortunately, after returning from injury, Soriano looks to be getting back in the swing of things—literally. In game 2 of the series with Arizona, 'Fonsie went 4-for-5 and, once again, provided the go-ahead double to seal the win. Despite looking a little gimpy on the basepath, the Cubs leadoff man still managed to get two big runs on plays at the plate.

The Diamondbacks controlled the game through 6 innings, led by their newest stud, rookie hurler Max Scherzer. Despite his 6 K, no earned run performance, Scherzer was pulled before the 7th inning, at which point the flood gates opened for Chicago. Struggling pinch-hitter Daryle Ward tied the game at deuces with an RBI single to set up Soriano's go-ahead double. The Cubs weren't done yet, though. Wrigley's finest put up four more runs in the inning, including two off of Kosuke Fukudome's second homer of the year.

Game 3: Cubs Win 6-4
Ward's contribution on Saturday may have been viewed as a happy accident, but his clutch performance Sunday proved that he's warming up at just the right time. The pinch-hitter was 0-for-14 off the bench before Saturday, but clearly Lou Piniella viewed his struggles as temporary. After Reed Johnson tied the game at four with a two-run homer to left, Ward stepped up and smacked a huge two-run double to the gap in right center that put Chicago up for good.

Good teams have superstars who consistently produce. Great teams get big-time performances from everyone, right down to their last bench guy. As the season continues, the Cubs are proving more and more to be one of those great teams. The series sweep, along with a St. Louis loss on Sunday, returned the Northsiders to the top of the NL Central, right where they belong.


As of Wednesday night, the Cubs remain one game ahead of their rival, the surprising St. Louis Cardinals.


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