How bout those Cubbies! How bout Big Z! How bout the magic number down to 6! It really is hard for me to temper my excitement right now, this has truly been one incredible season…but it’s not over yet. I just want to see the Cubs close the regular season strong and then…On to October!
After Big Z’s no-hitter the other day, I was thinking back to the spring of 1998. I was sitting behind then Cubs President and CEO Andy MacPhail at Hohokam listening to him talk about a rookie pitcher from Texas who was going to be something special…Kerry Wood showed us why only a month and a half later with a one hit, 20 K game on May 6th against the Astros. Only two current Cubs players were in the organization back in 1998, Wood and a 17 year old kid from Venezuela who was getting his feet wet in pro ball with the Cubs Arizona rookie league…Carlos Zambrano.
So here we are ten years later with two home grown pitchers playing huge roles in the Cubs chances of winning their first World Series since 1908. Kerry Wood has certainly had an up and down injury filled Cubs career; no doubt the path has been different than the Cubs faithful had envisioned following that May 6th 1998 game. Wood has persevered during the last decade in spite of huge expectations and injuries by working hard and staying focused. This year’s switch of Ryan Dempster to starter and Wood to closer has really payed off for the Cubs. It is however the final stretch and post-season when leaders like Kerry Wood must step up and take care of business.
Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter was a historic game to remember and another step in his pitching evolution. In 1998 few people knew anything about the 17 year old pitcher from Venezuela, in 2003 Zambrano won 13 games but when the Cubs made a push to reach the World Series he was overshadowed by the other young guns Wood and Prior. After the 2003 season things really accelerated for Z, while former phenoms Wood and Prior combined for 35 wins and 37 losses since 03, the Big Z has won 78 games and lost only 39. With Z having 12 days off because of a sore arm the no-hitter really came out of the blue, once again the Astros were on the other side of Cubs pitching history. Certainly the Cubs are capable of scoring more runs than in the recent past but this year’s hopes will rest on the broad shoulders and continued evolution of Big Z come playoff time.
Theodore came up with a big game of his own yesterday allowing only 1 hit in 7 innings work. The Cubs were having a good time in Milwaukee while the Brewers were in Philly melting down…Manager Ned Yost took the brunt of the heat getting axed with only two weeks left in the regular season. So now we have the Cubs and the Brewers going at it in Wrigley tonight with the Cubs able to clinch if they sweep the Brew Crew. I’m thinking that the Brewers will be a bit on the testy side for the series, all things considered. As Lou likes to say “one game at a time”; should be a good pitching match up this evening with Dempster and Sabathia.