Hero: Carlos Zambrano (4-1) won his 10th straight road start with eight terrific innings as the Cubs (14-16), sporting classy 1944 replica uniforms, took two of three in the series and four of seven on the road trip. Zambrano, whose first pitch was delivered with an old-fashioned windmill windup, allowed one (earned) run on five hits while striking out four and walking one.
"He was Big Z today, he wasn't Carlos," Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd said. "I saw 92, 94 (MPH) on the board today. He's a power pitcher, and that's what he has to do to win."
Did you catch Big Z dancing in the dugout as a recording of the Glenn Miller Orchestra's "In the Mood" blared over the Dodger Stadium public address system? It's welcome to see him enjoying the game again.
"He did what he did easily, to me, without a lot of pomp and circumstance," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "He just went after hitters. When he's got some soft game to go with his moving fastball and can locate, he's really tough. He went right after guys and attacked them."
Zambrano's last road loss came last June 25 at Comiskey Park - his infamous meltdown game.
Hero: Finally, the Demp we know and love. Ryan Dempster, who turned 34 on Tuesday, walked the first two batters he faced on eight straight balls, but bounced back to work seven solid innings. Dempster- who lowered his ERA to 8.05 while not figuring in the decision- allowed one (earned) run on six hits while walking two and striking out five.
"To say this was the best outing of Ryan Dempster's season would be probably the understatement of the year," Len Kasper said during the WGN telecast."He was really good."
I understand that the alternatives are as appealing as the selection of women at closing time at the neighborhood dive, but I wish the Cubs would pull the plug on the James Russell-in-the-starting-rotation experiment.
Hero: A slimmer Justin Berg made his 2011 debut and set down the Dodgers in order in the seventh inning.
Hero: Starlin Castro - the best player the Cubs farm system has produced since perhaps Billy Williams - went 4-for-5 with a double and a clutch two-run single during the Cubs' five-run eighth. It was the fifth career four-hit game for Castro, who is now hitting .393, and his second four-hit effort this season. He has a major league leading 10 multi-hit games in 2011 and leads the majors with 35 hits.
Hero: Carlos Zambrano remained undefeated since his meltdown at Comiskey Park on June 25 with eight innings of three-hit ball. Zambrano struck out 10 - the first time he achieved double-digits in strikeouts since his no-hitter on Sept. 14, 2008 - and walked just one.
For whatever it's worth, it was the Cubs' first "quality start" since Randy Wells turned one in against Arizona on April 4. The "quality start" statistic is as nonsensical as the "game-winning RBI." A pitcher who lasts just six innings and allows three runs is credited with a "quality start." The benchmark for what is deemed "quality" should be a bit higher.
Hero: Aramis Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a double off the right-field scoreboard to raise his average to .360. Ramirez was hitting .143 entering play on April 16, 2010.
I remember fondly throughout my childhood the February day in which my father would bring home a stack of baseball preview magazines.
I would devour those things and have continued the practice into adulthood. All of that reading material has helped me get through those final few weeks without baseball, but I learned long ago that such publications should not be believed as gospel.
I will use a quote from the character of Rudy on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids to express my opinion of former Cubs infielder Ryan Theriot:
"Man, you're like school during the summer. No class!"
You would think that Theriot would be grateful for his experience with the Cubs. It was the organization that drafted and signed him and brought him to the majors in 2006. It was while with the Cubs, that Theriot was given the opportunity to become an everyday player in 2007 by manager Lou Piniella. Thanks to the Cubs, Theriot became a popular player on one of sports' most famous franchises. Thanks to the Cubs, Theriot became a millionaire.
.259 BA, 34 HR, 156 RBI with Cubs
(Editor's Note: Ninth in a series identifying the 100 worst Cubs of all-time.)
When the Cubs signed Japanese star Kosuke Fukudome to a four-year,$48 million contract before the 2008 season, the outfielder was often described in the media as a cross between Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. In nine seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, Fukudome hit .305, won a batting title in 2002, and was named the Japanese Central League MVP in 2006 after hitting .351 with 31 homers and 104 RBI.
It's a shame, that his lasting image in the minds of many Cubs fans will be an awkward-looking helicopter swing and a miss.
My grandfather turned 90 earlier this year.
Pops is no saint, but I have always been struck by his ability to make friends. It's a testament to his talent for relating to others that a week does not go by when somebody in our neighborhood asks me how he's doing or tells me a story about a good time they had with him.
But the fact that he has been a Cubs fan since at least the 1930s has to be penance for something. The man has been subjected to more bad baseball in his lifetime than anybody else I know and has not even enjoyed the experience of watching his favorite team play in the World Series since 1938. He was serving in the Pacific while the Cubs participated in the 1945 Fall Classic.
"Wait 'til next year!" my late grandmother would mutter whenever she'd hear a Cubs fan speak those words. "It's always wait 'til next year with those Cubs!"
The improved play the Cubs demonstrated under interim manager Mike Quade during the season's final weeks (a 24-13 record) was encouraging but it doesn't change the fact that the 2010 season was an unmitigated disaster.
The rivalry between the Cubs and Cardinals is generally considered as one of the three best in the major leagues, placed on a pedestal alongside the Yankees-Red Sox and Dodgers-Giants antagonisms. But when it comes to late-season drama, Cubs-Cardinals ranks far behind the other two classic rivalries.