Lou Piniella’s crew was coming off their best month of the season, despite all of the changes and drama that surrounded the club….but it would only get better in July. The Cubs played their best ball of the season over those 31 days, in large part due to a tremendous month by Carlos Zambrano. Ted Lilly was spectacular as well. The southpaw posted a 5-1 record in 6 starts with a 2.52 ERA. Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry kept tweaking the roster and traded for Jason Kendall to try to solve their catching woes.
August was full of injuries and a little more difficult than July. The Cubs slumped in the summer heat and some thought the “swoon” had come a month early.
Cubs Record in July – 17-9 – season record end of July – 56-49 – 2nd place in the Central Division – 1 game back of the Brewers
– Carlos Zambrano’s Dominating Month of July
Carlos Zambrano earned National League Pitcher of the Month honors for his tremendous month. Zambrano was 5-1 in 6 starts with a 1.38 ERA. He did not allow a run in three of those starts, and allowed 3 runs just once….a loss in Pittsburgh to close out the first half of the season. Zambrano had a stretch after the All-Star game in which he allowed on 2 earned run in 4 starts….25 1/3 innings, a 0.71 ERA. Zambrano’s best outing came against the Reds in Cincinnati on July 29th. Big Z threw 7 1/3 shutout innings against a team he usually struggles against. He allowed just 2 scratch hits on the afternoon.
Zambrano beat the Washington Nationals on the eve of Independence Day, 3-1, to earn his 10th victory of the season. Zambrano gave up a run on 3 hits with 8 strikeouts and a walk in 6 2/3 innings. The win pushed the Cubs 2 games over .500 for the first time in 2007. Alfonso Soriano scored a pair of runs. Cliff Floyd drove in a pair on a broken bat single with the bases loaded. Ryan Theriot drove in the first run of the game.
The Cubs opened the second half of the season at Wrigley against the Houston Astros. Zambrano threw 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowed only 3 hits and the Cubs shutout the Astros, 6-0. Zambrano became the first NL pitcher to reach the 11-win plateau. Big Z was 2-for-3 at the plate with a RBI and a run scored as well.
The Cubs home run drought continued but Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee doubled to go along with 12 singles. The win evened the Cubs season record at home to 21-21 and Geovany Soto made his 2007 debut.
Carlos Zambrano recorded the shortest, most effective outing of his career in a 12-1 victory over the Giants. Zambrano pitched just 5 innings, allowed 2 hits and for the second outing in a row did not surrender a single run. Sean Gallagher pitched 4 innings in relief and was awarded a save….the first of his big league career.
Derrek Lee was serving his suspension and Aramis Ramirez had a scheduled day off but Koyie Hill had his best game in the big leagues. Hill drove in 5 of the Cubs 12 runs, all with 2 outs. Hill hit doubles from both sides of the plate. Jacque Jones had a big day but the Cubs offense scored 12 runs on 10 hits with 10 walks.
Zambrano beat the Cardinals in St. Louis, 4-3, and picked up his 13th win of the year. Zambrano’s scoreless innings streak came to an end in the 5th inning….the streak reached 20 1/3 innings before Zambrano allowed 2 runs to the Cardinals. Zambrano gave up 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Ronny Cedeno tied the game in the 6th and Aramis Ramirez drove in the winning run in the 7th….both runs were scored by Ryan Theriot and an error by Scott Rolen opened the door for the comeback.
Carlos Zambrano has struggled against the Reds for the past several years, including a very disappointing performance on Opening Day….but on that Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati he had one of the best outings of his career.
Zambrano could do no wrong. He found a rhythm and despite walking 3 batters, it was a dominating performance. Zambrano held the very dangerous Reds offense to just 2 hits in 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball. The Cubs won the game, 6-0, but it was clearly Zambrano’s day to shine.
Big Z was 3-for-4 at the plate, Derrek Lee homered, Angel Pagan drove in a pair and the Cubs were 7 games over .500 for the third time on the year.
– The 3-Game Sweep of the Astros at Wrigley Field – July 15, 2007 – 23 Years
The last time the Cubs swept a 3-game series against the Astros at Wrigley was in 1984, before the first series of the second half of the 2007 campaign. Michael Wuertz picked up the win after a horrible start by Jason Marquis. Fortunately for the Cubs, Wandy Rodriguez was on the hill for the Astros and the Cubs beat Houston, 7-6.
Marquis gave up 6 runs in the first 3 innings but the bullpen threw 5 shutout innings. The Cubs were down 5-0 by the 2nd inning but scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning with 5 runs coming off of home runs by Angel Pagan and Derrek Lee.
– Cubs Trade for Jason Kendall – July 16, 2007
The Giants were in Chicago, but Barry Bonds was not in the lineup. Earlier in the afternoon, the Cubs announced they had recalled Billy Petrick from Iowa and had DFA’d Rob Bowen. During the game the announcement was made the Cubs had traded Bowen and Jerry Blevins to the Oakland A’s for Jason Kendall.
The move cost the Cubs a very good minor league reliever but gave Lou Piniella an experienced catcher for the last 2 1/2 months of the season. Kendall played well for the Cubs but was quickly overshadowed by Geovany Soto in September. Kendall posted a .270 average with a .362 OBP for the Cubs in 57 games with a home run and 19 RBI’s.
– Cubs Finish July with a 17-9 Record – Most Wins in NL – July 31, 2007 – Bookends
Lou Piniella’s crew finished their best month of the season the same way it began, with a win. Jason Marquis beat the Phillies 7-3 and the Cubs finished July with 17 wins….the most for the franchise in July in 7 years. Only the New York Yankees, with 18, had more wins in July than the Cubs.
Marquis won his 8th game of the year and improved to 5-2 following a Cubs loss, a very impressive stat that he would maintain the entire year. Marquis gave up 3 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings. Jacque Jones doubled in a pair in the 6th, Mike Fontenot added a pinch-hit RBI single and Jason Kendall added a 2-out single in the 7th with the bases loaded that plated the final 2 runs of the game.
Cubs Record in August – 12-16 – season record end of August – 68-65 – 1st place in the Central Division – 1 1/2 game lead on the Brewers
August started off with the Cubs taking over first place in the central but most of the month Lou Piniella dealt with various injuries, namely Alfonso Soriano. Carlos Zambrano had a horrible month after being named pitcher of the month in July. Zambrano did not post a win in 5 starts, 0-4 with a 7.06 ERA. Zambrano finally inked his new deal on August 17th, but did not return to form until September….after another meltdown.
The Cubs bullpen emerged as one of the best in the league. Scott Eyre became Stevie Irye, Bobby Howry and Carlos Marmol supplied the heat and ‘Kid K’ made his 2007 debut. Rich Hill was solid and, from time to time, the offense did their job and kept the Cubs atop a division the critics said no one wanted to win.
– Cubs in First Place – August 1, 2007 – Raise the Flag
With only 56 games left in the 2007 season, the Cubs finally reached the top of the Central Division, by only percentage points, but it was still first place. After the Cubs beat the Phillies 5-4, thousands waited at Wrigley Field to see the Cubs flag fly proudly from the top of the flagpole on the historic scoreboard….it was very reminiscent of 1967.
Matt Murton scored the winning run with 1-out in the 9th after two wild pitches from Brett Myers. Murton doubled, advanced to 3rd on the first wild pitch and scored the winning run with Cliff Floyd at the dish.
Rich Hill struggled, but Ryan Dempster picked up the win.
The Cubs were in first place!
– Kerry Wood Activated – August 2, 2007
Kerry Wood came to Spring Training more than 30 pounds lighter than the last time he pitched for the Cubs. Wood struggled with injuries and it appeared his career could be over. Wood gave it one last try and was successful at yet another comeback….more than 9 years after he rose to prominence. Wood’s return allowed Jim Hendry to not make a move at the trading deadline for another relief pitcher.
Wood was 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 22 games with a 1.27 WHIP in 2007. In September, he was 1-0 in 12 games with a 3.46 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. Wood struck out 24 and walked 13 in 24 1/3 innings.
– Alfonso Soriano Injured and Kerry Wood’s 2007 Debut – August 5, 2007 – An All Too Familiar Scene
The Cubs lost the game, Tom Glavine won his 300th game, but in the bottom of the 3rd inning one could hear a pin drop at Wrigley on that beautiful Sunday night on ESPN. Alfonso Soriano singled with 2 outs in the 3rd inning and tried to go from 1st to 3rd on a single by Ryan Theriot. Soriano pulled up between 2nd and 3rd, hopped the rest of the way on one leg to 3rd….and was put on the DL the next day.
Soriano’s injury conjured up so many bad memories and many felt the Cubs season might be over at that point. The Cubs survived losing Soriano. Ryan Theriot thrived in the leadoff spot but Soriano’s injury left the Cubs with a big hole that no one ended up filling.
Kerry Wood made his first appearance since June 6, 2006 in the loss. Wood would be a contributor over the final two months of the season.
It appeared the Cubs would be able to build a lead in the division and never look back….but the Faithful knew better after Soriano went to the DL.
– Cubs Take Two of Three in the Final Series of the Year against the Brewers – August 30, 2007 – Two of Three
The battle cry in Milwaukee became “Anybody but the Cubs” as the Brewers slipped into second place behind Lou’s crew. The MLB schedule makers, for whatever reason, scheduled the last meeting of the year between the Cubs and Brewers on August 30th. While the Cardinals are still the Cubs biggest rival, one could say the Cubs have become the Brewers biggest rival.
Carlos Marmol earned his 4th victory of the year as the Cubs beat Chris Capuano and the Brewers, 5-4. The Cubs finished the season series with Milwaukee with a 9-6 mark in 15 games with the win. Matt Murton broke a 3-3 tie with 2 outs in the 6th inning with a solo home run to left. Alfonso Soriano followed with a solo shot of his own, after striking out his first three times to the plate.
Ted Lilly started the game but left in the 5th inning. Carlos Marmol pitched 2 innings of relief. Marmol struck out the side in the 6th and 5 of the 6 outs he recorded were via strikeouts….Senor Nasty!