A Look Back at 2007 – The Stretch Run

The Cubs entered the final month of the 2007 campaign just a game and a half ahead of the Brewers….but there was a new addition to the race, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs and Brewers struggles in August opened the door for the Cardinals to make a run at the division crown. The defending World Champions made it very interesting for a while.

The Cubs remembered how to hit the long ball in September. Alfonso Soriano (.320/.354/.754/14/27), Aramis Ramirez (.287/.363/.594/8/21) and Derrek Lee (.365/.431/.654/7/14) carried the team offensively….the Big Three hit 29 home runs and drove in 62 runs in the season’s final month. Carlos Zambrano rebounded once again, this time from comments towards the fans and was 4-1 in his last 5 starts of the year. Geovany Soto, Sam Fuld and Kevin Hart were among the September call-ups. All three made immediate contributions and both Soto and Hart earned spots on the post-season roster.

Lou Piniella’s crew beat the Reds on September 28th in Cincinnati then huddled around TV’s in the clubhouse to watch the Brewers lose to the Padres. The Cubs won their first title since 2003…

September – From Worst to First

Cubs Record in September – 17-122007 record – 85-77 – 2007 National League Central Division Champions

– Carlos Zambrano’s Meltdown on Labor DaySeptember 3, 2007 – Z Wake Up Call?

Carlos Zambrano was coming off the worst month of his career. Big Z did not post a win in August, 0-4 in 5 starts with a 7.06 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP, and his first start of September was more of the same. Zambrano gave up 8 runs on 7 hits with 5 walks and 6 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. He was booed by the home crowd when he left the mound and made gestures during his walk to the dugout….and comments after the game about the fans. Zambrano apologized the next day and held it together the rest of the month….4-1 in his last 5 starts.

Zambrano’s afternoon started out on a positive note. He struck out two of the first four batters he faced and was given an early lead thanks to a leadoff home run by Alfonso Soriano. The meltdown started after Zambrano was thrown out at home plate after running through Mike Quade’s stop sign….the Cubs were embarrassed by the Dodgers, 11-3.

– Cubs First Win of the Year in Houston – The Game Ending Double PlaySeptember 12, 2007 – Pumped!

The Cubs had lost their first 4 games in Houston against a not-so-good Astros’ team and was struggling putting back-to-back wins together. Rich Hill started the game and gave up a run on 3 hits with 3 walks and 7 strikeouts in 7 innings. Cliff Floyd and Ryan Theriot drove in all three of the Cubs’ runs. Floyd hit his first triple of the year and added a home run. The Cubs had a 3-1 lead when Ryan Dempster took the mound in the bottom of the 9th….and the game got very, very interesting.

Mark Loretta led off the 9th and hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to the left of Derrek Lee, but the ball hit the bag and ricocheted into right field. Mike Lamb then tripled home Loretta to cut the Cubs lead to 3-2. Lou Piniella brought his infield in, with the tying run on 3rd base. Luke Scott swung at the first pitch and grounded out to 3rd for the first out of the inning. Dempster could not throw strikes and walked Orlando Palmeiro….Jason Kendall made a game saving block on ball 4 in the dirt.

Eric Munson then stepped in and hit a grounder to Lee at first. Lee turned, threw to Ryan Theriot at second and he threw to Dempster to complete the double play and end the game….a truly unbelievable ending.

Several of the players pumped their fist in unison and Lou Piniella was very animated as he took the field to congratulate his team on the victory. Piniella said after the game, “This is a game we should be able to build momentum from and we will.

– Cubs Take Three of Four from the Cardinals in St. Louis

The Cardinals had gotten to within a game of the division lead in early September but a 0-7 road trip found the Cardinals 5 games back of the Cubs when the weekend series began. The Cubs had the chance to knock the Cardinals out of the race….and after Lou’s crew won 3 of the 4 in a three day span, the Central Division crown was between just the Brewers and Cubs.

– September 14, 2007 – On Z Winning End

Carlos Zambrano beat Adam Wainwright in the first game of the series and in the process the Cubs won their 3rd game in a row for the first time since August 16th – August 18th. The two staff aces battled it out in an ole fashion pitcher’s duel. Zambrano gave up only 1 run, a solo home run by Albert Pujols, on 4 hits in 8 innings….it was Zambrano’s most efficient outing of the season, he threw just 101 pitches. Zambrano was scheduled to take the mound in the 9th but Tony LaRussa forced Piniella’s hand…..and it cost him.

With the Cubs up 2-1, LaRussa walked Jason Kendall to load the bases and bring up Zambrano. Piniella went to his bench for Daryle Ward. Ward hit a bases clearing double and gave the Cubs what appeared to be a comfortable 4-run lead going into the bottom of the 9th.

Ryan Dempster retired Pujols to start the inning but Jim Edmonds followed with a solo home run. With two outs, Ryan Ludwick added a solo shot of his own to cut the Cubs lead to 5-3. Yadier Molina followed Ludwick’s home run with a single and Piniella went to his pen, again, for Bobby Howry.

Russell Branyan and So Taguchi singled off of Howry to load the bases but Aaron Miles swung at the first pitch and grounded out to end the game.

– September 15, 2007 – Winning with the Longball

Game one of the day-night double header was a make-up of the game cancelled on April 29th due to the death of Josh Hancock. Kerry Wood earned his first big league win since May 29, 2006 and his first career win in relief. The Cubs won the game, 3-2, thanks to a 2-run home run in the 8th inning by Alfonso Soriano. The dinger was Soriano’s 8th in 17 games.

The Cubs’ offense struggled against Braden Looper and managed just 1 run while he was on the mound. Ted Lilly gave up 2 runs in 5 innings and Carlos Marmol was dominant once again….Marmol retired the heart of the Cardinals’ lineup in the 8th inning.

– September 15, 2007 – Let ‘Em Off the Hook

Game two of the double header (Ernie Banks had a very large smile on his face on that Saturday in September) saw the Cubs jump out to an early lead but they ran out of gas and lost the game 4-3. The Cubs scored a run in the 1st inning and two in the 2nd off of Alfonso Soriano’s 27th home run of the season.

Both Derrek Lee and Ryan Theriot were thrown out at the plate in the first two innings. The Cubs could not capitalize and left the Cardinals in the game. Joel Pineiro retired the last 15 batters he faced after giving up a double to Derrek Lee in the 3rd inning.

The Cardinals scored all 4 runs in the 3rd inning after a throwing error by Jason Kendall allowed Ryan Ludwick to reach 1st base after striking out on a ball in the dirt.

– September 16, 2007 – Mission Accomplished

The Cubs goal when the series started on Friday was simple….just win 3 out of 4 games and leave St. Louis with a 7-4 road trip. Lou Piniella’s crew did just that, in large part due to the pitching of Jason Marquis. The Cubs won the last game of the season against the Cardinals, 4-2, and won the season series 11-5.

Matt Murton had the big hit, a 3-run homer in the 3rd inning. The Cubs scattered 13 hits and walked 7 times but managed just the 4 runs. Ronny Cedeno drove in the Cubs other run.

Jason Marquis pitched one of his better games of the season. Marquis shutout his former team for 6 innings. Carlos Marmol allowed only his 5th inherited run of the year to score in the 7th. Sam Fuld made a game-changing catch in the 8th inning that helped preserve the win.

With only twelve games left in the season, the Cubs headed home to face the Cincinnati Reds

– The Comeback in the 9th against the RedsSeptember 17, 2007 – What a Finish

Rich Hill got the start in the final home series of 2007 against Bronson Arroyo. The Cubs started the night just a game up on the Brewers. Milwaukee posted a win and put the pressure on the Cubs to keep pace. The Reds took the lead after the Cubs jumped out to a 3-1 lead and it appeared the Cubs would finish the night tied for first place.

Cliff Floyd hit a 2-run jack and Mark DeRosa added his 10th home run of the year but Rich Hill could not hold the lead. Bronson Arroyo started rallies in two different innings. Kevin Hart made a name for himself that night. Hart threw two scoreless innings in relief and kept the Reds from tacking onto their lead.

Norris Hopper made a great diving catch to rob Aramis Ramirez of extra bases in the 5th and it appeared that play would be the difference in the game until the 9th inning.

The Cubs entered the bottom of the 9th down by two runs. David Weathers walked a very patient Ryan Theriot after an excellent at bat. Derrek Lee followed with a single to right….only his 2nd hit in his previous 20 at bats. Aramis Ramirez then tripled to right center over the outstretched glove of a diving Norris Hopper. Theriot and Lee scored to tie the game.

Sam Fuld pinch ran for Ramirez and the Reds intentionally walked Daryle Ward. With no outs and the winning run on 3rd, Pete Mackanin brought Norris Hopper in from center to be a fifth infielder. Mark DeRosa stepped in and singled up the middle off the glove of David Weathers and past a diving Brandon Phillips. DeRosa was a perfect 5-for-5 on the night with the game winner.

Wrigley exploded, the entire team rushed the field and a very joyous Carlos Zambrano hoisted DeRosa in the celebration. The only thing missing was Harry Caray shouting “Cubs Win!! Cubs Win!!

– The Catch and The Big ThreeSeptember 22, 2007 – Flippin’ the Switch

The Cubs hit 4 home runs against the Pirates on the last Saturday of the regular season at Wrigley. Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee recorded all 8 of the Cubs RBI’s. Soriano went deep twice, Lee was 4-for-5 with a home run, 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored while Ramirez hit his 26th of the year in the 3rd inning that broke a 3-3 tie. The Cubs recorded a rare victory against Zach Duke.

Sam Fuld not only made the catch of the year, but arguably one of the best catches by a Cub at Wrigley Field. Fuld robbed Nyjer Morgan of an extra base hit when he made a leaping catch into the ivy in right. Fuld crashed into the wall and then threw a one-hop strike to Derrek Lee to double off Nate McLouth to end the inning….the Cubs won the game 9-5.

The Cubs Beat the Reds in CincinnatiThe Padres Beat the Brewers in Milwaukee The Cubs Clinch the National League Central Division Crown September 28, 2007 – Znapped!From Worst to First

The division the experts said no one wanted to win was finally clinched by the Cubs on the last Friday in September. Carlos Zambrano pitched a gem and ended the Cubs 3-game losing streak after a horrible week in South Florida. Zambrano threw 7 innings of shutout ball and ran his scoreless innings streak to 13. Zambrano, Bobby Howry and Ryan Dempster combined to throw the Cubs 9th shutout of the year….the 10th and final would come the next day.

Alfonso Soriano recorded his 19th outfield assist of the year and tied the Cubs’ all-time mark set by Billy Williams in 1962. Soriano also led off the game for the 11th time with a home run. Soriano’s home run tied the Cubs’ all-time record for home runs in September….Ernie Banks hit 13 in 1952. Soriano would break Banks’ record on the final day of the regular season.

Jacque Jones added a 2-out, 2-run double in the 8th that put the game away.

After the Cubs beat the Reds all eyes turned to Milwaukee and the game against the Padres and Brewers. The Padres eventually won the game that Greg Maddux started. Chicago was all about the Cubs once again. Fans poured into the streets and bars around Wrigley as the celebration carried on into the early hours of Saturday morning.

The infamous sign now reads AC006299.

Lou Piniella’s crew accomplished one of their goals, winning the division. He took a 96-loss team from the year before and made them winners, at the same time Piniella brought a winning attitude and a fire to the North Side of Chicago. After the Cubs were swept in the National League Division Series by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lou Piniella said, “This is just the start fellas. We are going to get better at this. This is just a start. We will convene next spring and take this thing further.

Here’s to 2008!….It’s Been Long Enough

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne