Chicago Cubs fans know that their team will always keep them on their toes. In the last week the team traded away ace pitcher Matt Garza for a handful of prospects, and also traded away slugger Alfonso Soriano in a peculiar deal. That same trade left only Jeff Samardzija as the only remaining member from the 2008 team that won 97 games. Also, the team welcomed prospect Junior Lake to the mix. A brief summary of Lake, he is tall, strong, and quick. In a single game, he showcased his speed with two bunt singles and then showed the power with a crushing home run. Soriano himself said he saw a younger him in Lake. The changing of the guard was unfolding.
If that was not enough, the Cubs had to make a weekend trip to the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants to end a ten game west coast trip. Not much could have been expected from that. But then in true Cub fashion, they kept the faithful on their toes and ended up sweeping the champions in arguably their most impressive three consecutive games in the last two seasons.
Friday night saw a great effort by Edwin Jackson nearly lost. Jackson was cruising for six innings until finding trouble in the seventh. Trailing 2-1 and down to the final strike, Anthony Rizzo hit a rocket down the first base line through the legs of Brandon Belt that scored two runs to take the lead and ultimately win the game.
Saturday’s game saw another great pitching performance by unlikely Chris Rusin who pitched seven shutout innings. But the pitching performance may have been by Pedro Strop. In the eight, Strop loaded the bases without recording an out and due up were MVP Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence. Cub fans likely had to turn away at that time. But with two infield ground outs to force runners at home and a strikeout of Pence, Strop got out of the inning without allowing a run. Nate Schierholtz proceeded to smack a home run in the top of the ninth and the Cubs won 1-0. That also happened to be the final score of three other Major League games that day as well.
No way could the Cubs sweep the defending champions on the road, right? Wrong. Sunday, saw lone all-star Travis Wood launch a homerun of his own and also pitch seven strong innings. Strop did his thing again in the eighth and Kevin Gregg recorded his third save in as many days with the Cubs winning the finale 2-1 and capping off the winning streak.
The way the team seemingly banded together out by the bay was impressive. It was a collective effort and everyone did their part. It was a team to tip your cap to. The Cubs now come back to Chicago to face the last place Brewers. A key point in the clubhouse will have to be keeping the momentum going. All the great work done out west will be all for not if they cannot beat the Brew Crew.
Following that series, they face the red hot Dodgers, struggling Phillies and a few divisional games. If the team can put a few weeks of good play together the record is getting close to the 500 mark. It is still a long shot, but can this unlikely bunch catch the Reds or Pirates and at least be in the consideration for a Wild Card spot? This past weekend was a great building block for that. Stay on your toes.