Heroes: Carlos Pena (home run) Kosuke Fukudome (double) each contributed three hits and bookended a dramatic two-run ninth inning rally off Cincinnati closer Francisco Cordero (2-1) to lead the Cubs (15-17), as Pat Hughes described it, "to their most gratifying victory of the season."
Hero: Alfonso Soriano took over the major league lead in home runs when he belted his 11th of the season leading off the seventh.
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: Kosuke Fukudome, who turns 34 Tuesday, had five singles in five at-bats to raise his average to .478.
Hero: Reed Johnson, who replaced center fielder Marlon Byrd in the starting lineup, went 3-for-4 with a double.
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: Tyler Colvin, who entered the game hitting just .115, but homered in the seventh and doubled in the ninth.
Heroes: The first two hitters in the Cubs' lineup - Starlin Castro (3-for-5) and Darwin Barney (2-for-3) - combined for five hits and scored all five of the Cubs' runs in the first four innings against Houston starter Nelson Figueroa (0-2).
Hero: Andrew Cashner was terrific in his first major league start before exiting after 5 1/3 innings with tightness in his pitching shoulder. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed just two hits, struck out two, and walked one. He went to a three-ball count on just two batters, and fired 43 of his 72 pitches for strikes.
When spring training opened last month, Cubs manager Mike Quade let it be known that there would be open competition for a large percentage of the spots on his team's Opening Day roster.
The snow has melted, the days are getting noticeably longer, and the Cubs are playing spring training games in Arizona.
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.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry made the right call Tuesday in announcing that Mike Quade would manage the team in 2011.
Hero: Carlos Zambrano (11-6) allowed three runs - two earned - on three hits over 6 1/3 innings while striking out five and walking three. Zambrano won his final eight decisions and posted a 1.24 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Ryan Dempster's endorsement Tuesday of Mike Quade for the Cubs managerial job in 2011 is the final event in a long series of developments that has convinced me that Quade is the right man for the job.
Heroes: Relievers Justin Berg, Scott Maine, Marcos Mateo, Andrew Cashner, James Russell, and Thomas Diamond combined for 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
Heroes: Relievers Justin Berg, Scott Maine, Marcos Mateo, and James Russell combined to allow two hits over 5 2/3 shutout innings.
Hero: Tyler Colvin became the fourth Cubs rookie to hit 20 or more home runs in a season. The other members of the exclusive club are Walt "Moose" Moryn with 23 in 1956, Billy Williams (25, 1961), and Geovany Soto (23, 2008).