Well, at least the Cubs looked like they cared.
For the first six innings of the ballgame, the Cubs were the same old tired bunch that didn't really feel like playing. It seemed as though they were swinging as hard as they could at the first pitch that was near the same zip code as the plate, the same approach the Cubs took in the final two games at Coors Field.
The Cubs did hit three solo homeruns, but it's saying a lot when each of the first three hits were homeruns. Looking at the approach taken by many of the hitters, especially the guys in the heart of that lineup, it's obvious they were all swinging for the fences. I'll admit that Derrek Lee did work the count for his homerun but it seemed as though Ramirez and Jones just got lucky with theirs. In Jacque Jones' case, on the 1-0 pitch, he tried to pull a ball that was six inches off of the outside corner and just came up with a big swing and miss. Two pitches later, Jones had the same wreckless hard swing: the only difference was that Harang left the 2-1 pitch over the heart of the plate.
For the final three innings though, the team showed why it had been playing so well over the month of June and first half of July. Down multiple runs, nobody tried to get it all back (exception: Jones in 8th) in one swing, but instead tried to focus their attention on stringing base hits together. The Cubs scored lone runs in the 7th and 8th innings on RBI singles through the middle and to the opposite field, which made the game close.
The Cubs need to remember how they played the final three innings of tonight's game and duplicate that process if they want to succeed, especially against a pair of unfamiliar lefties coming up.
Struggling Leaders: The Cubs have gone 7-12 in their last 19 games and have fallen to just two games over the .500 mark. Meanwhile, the Brewers have gone 9-17 in their last 26 games and kept the Cubs alive. For the past three weeks, Chicago has kind of been sitting right around 1 or 2 games behind first place, but now the top two teams have competition. The Cardinals have been able to get right back into this race by playing above average baseball, gaining 4 1/2 games on the Brewers by going just 10-7 since July 28.
The next week will really tell the tale for the St. Louis Cardinals. They have a good chance to do some damage in the division race, but they'll have to do it on the road. The Cardinals won the first game of the three-game set in Milwaukee before they will play a wrap-around four-game series in Wrigley over the weekend. By this time next week, we'll know whether it'll be a two- or three-team race down the stretch.