Game One Hundred Four – Cubs 6 Cardinals 3
The last time the Cubs swept the Cardinals at Wrigley in a 4-game series was July 29-31, 1972, almost 34 years to the day the Cubs did the unthinkable and swept the Cardinals at home. The win Sunday gave the Cubs their longest winning streak of the season, 4 games, and topped off the best week the Cubs have had all season. After taking 2 of 3 from the Mets, the 4-game sweep of the Cardinals topped off an amazing week, one that saw them win 6 of 7 games from he best two teams in the National League. The Cubs have won 10 of 13 games from the division leading Cardinals and those 10 wins equal the number of wins the Cubs have against the East and West Divisions combined….explain that one Cubs fans.
Sunday’s game was another complete win, Carlos Zambrano won his 9th in a row and threw very well, the offense did their job and gave their ace an early lead that allowed him to settle in and the bullpen continued their excellent relief work. Regardless of everything that has gone wrong this season, this past week everything fell into place and the Cubs won some games against two very good opponents. Carlos Zambrano was terrific again and out pitched fellow Cy Young Award candidate Chris Carpenter. Zambrano did not allow a hit until the 3rd inning despite walking the bases loaded in the 2nd. Zambrano continues to have his outings cut short by the amount of walks he allows and Sunday was no different. Zambrano gave up 5 free passes to go along with 5 strikeouts and 5 hits but most importantly he held the Cardinals to just 2 runs in 6 innings of work. With Sunday’s performance Zambrano is tied with Jason Marquis for the most wins (12) in the National League, leads the league in strikeouts (152) as well as walks (82) and is 7th in ERA (3.26) all for a team that is 18 games under .500….just amazing.
Chris Carpenter had control problems early and the Cubs took full advantage, 6 of the first 9 Cubs that stepped to the plate were ahead in the count. Carpenter walked Juan Pierre to start the game and he advanced to 3rd on a 1-out single to left by Aramis Ramirez (3-4 on Sunday, all 3 hits were singles to all fields). Phil Nevin hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Pierre and Jacque Jones doubled to left to score Ramirez from 1st.
Ronny Cedeno led off the 2nd inning with his 3rd homer of the season and Blanco and Zambrano singled after the home run. Pierre sacrificed them to 2nd and 3rd and Walker hit a grounder to shortstop and David Eckstein’s throw was off the mark, Molina could not tag Blanco and the Cubs added another run. The usually fundamentally sound Cardinals made their 4th error in as many games that cost them the game. Ramirez then singled to right to score Zambrano….and at that time is when the thoughts of a sweep started dancing through the heads of the Cubs Faithful. At 5-0, it looked like that was all that Zambrano would need.
The Cardinals added single runs in the 5th and 6th innings before Zambrano left. It felt like for a while that the momentum had started to shift in favor of the Cardinals but the bullpen did another excellent job and John Mabry added a big 2-out, pinch-hit single to center that scored Todd Walker and put the game out of reach. The Cardinals had opportunities in 2 of the last 3 innings but were unable to mount a significant comeback. Ryan Dempster allowed (another) run in the 9th but Albert Pujols popped out to Ramirez to end the game.
Albert Pujols was scratched from the starting lineup 10 minutes before game time with a reported hyper extended right elbow but Tony LaRussa pinch hit Pujols for Jim Edmonds in the 7th inning….it would be nice if the Cubs had those kinds of team doctors….WOW!!!
A record crowd of 162,101 saw the 4-game series against the Cardinals and all of those disappointed Redbird fans had to take the disappointing trip home down I-55….man that must have been a long ride!!!!
Mark Prior will take the hill on Monday night under the lights at Wrigley against the Arizona Diamondbacks and their ace Brandon Webb. What was the old Bulls slogan, the Drive for Five? Well, Prior’s first victory in almost 11 months and the Cubs 5th in a row has a nice ring to it.