With all the constant negative reminders and forewarnings for ultimate doom the Cubs find a way to get back in stride. After experiencing a bad stretch where they lost 6 in a row the trip to St. Louis did the Cubs some good. Not only did winning the series lift their spirits, but the Cubs also gained a little ground in the division. Thanks to a Brewers defeat last night the Cubs garner a 5.5 game lead. The pitching was on point for the last 2 games, being stingy behind efficient run support. Thursday night before finding out the upcoming series in Houston will be postponed due to the hurricane approaching and probably moved to another city the Cubs focused on beating those Cardinals. Things got interesting in the 9th, but the Cubs pulled out a 3-2 victory!
Ryan Theriot came through on offense, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. To put the Cubs ahead 3-0 in the 6th inning Mike Fontenot drove in a run with a single. The Cards tried to make a comeback with 2 runs in the bottom half then came up empty. Kerry Wood, this time was able to be in control as he nailed down his 30th save. Not that their wasn't drama in the 9th, but it worked out in the Cubs' favor. Rich Harden was effective, pitching 6 innings. He didn't appear to show any ill-effects of a nagging arm problem. The following is his statline:
6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0 HR
I noticed Felix Pie entered the game again as a defensive replacement yet didn't get an at-bat. That doesn't enable his future growth and a handful of plate appearances would benefit his future development. I understand Lou wants his best in the game during crunch time, but I think a few prospects off the bench could provide the extra offense Chicago needs.
I can only imagine what the Cubs' record would be if they'd have closed out other 1-run games earlier this year. That doesn't matter as much as staying atop in the NL Central and have the lineup stay productive for the rest of the way. Lou Piniella has plenty options now with the expanded rosters and can feel better about having his 2 starting pitchers back. Plus with the delay with the series in Houston will allow Zambrano and Harden to get extra rest and strength in their arms. I believe the next series in Milwaukee could give the Cubs the chance to put first place out of reach for their division rivals. Then again it all depends on how the Brewers respond later and the fact both teams square off for a final series at the end of the month.