Series Rewind: Cubs vs. Sox

CHICAGO - Good pitching beats good hitting: it's a formula that has produced a countless number of World Series Champions over the years, and this weekend that same concept applied to the annual cross-town clash between the Cubs and White Sox at Wrigley Field. Cubs pitching held the South siders to just five runs in three games, a far cry from the 19 scored by the Pale Hosers the previous weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.

Series Notes

Friday, July 2: Cubs 6 Sox 2 (WP: Zambrano, LP: Loaiza)
Saturday, July 3: Cubs 4 Sox 2 (WP: Maddux, LP: Diaz, SV: Wuertz)
Sunday, July 4: Cubs 2 Sox 1 (WP: Hawkins, LP: Takatsu)

Rundown

Friday: As if we needed proof that Carlos Zambrano is not going to have back-to-back bad outings... Zambrano escaped disaster in the first inning by overcoming what appeared to be a Ross Gload grand slam to go on to victory. While he did give up a two-run double in that at-bat, Zambrano settled in and did not allow another hit until the sixth inning. All the while, the Cubs' offense managed to scratch out run by run to build up a 5-2 lead before Zambrano departed in the seventh. Needless to say, Cub fans were worried when Zambrano was removed after 6.1 with forearm cramps. The team also held its breath momentarily when Aramis Ramirez suffered a minor groin strain by sliding into third base on a Derrek Lee single. Both appear to be fine, though, and both are expected back in the lineup some time this week in Milwaukee. Lastly, although he didn't pitch terrible, Esteban Loaiza again did not have his best stuff against the Cubs. Out of the eight total hits he surrendered, three were for extra bases, all of which lead to Cub runs thus snapping a streak of four straight winning decisions by the right-hander.

Saturday: This one had the makings for one of the wildest settings in recent memory. Rain and mud both plagued the North side in game two of the series, which the Cubs were thankful to overcome. Greg Maddux at one point retired eight of nine straight Sox hitters on groundballs, and allowed only six balls to leave the infield in 5.1 innings. For a pitcher who is on pace to surrender a career-high in homeruns, Maddux could use a few more outings such as these. I'll let Andrew Bare explain the in's and out's of that, but in the meantime, it was certainly a far cry from last Sunday, when the potent South side offense totaled nine runs on eleven hits in four innings against the savvy future Hall of Famer.

Sunday: This will certainly go down as one of the most memorable games in recent years in terms of the Cubs-Sox lovefest. Watching LaTroy Hawkins surrender a one-run lead by just a few feet, only to have control problems and a clutch pressure-cooker roast (pun intended) Damaso Marte in the bottom of the ninth certainly made for good entertainment for any baseball fan unaffiliated with either side. Glendon Rusch once again showed why he deserves, at the least, a spot in the Cubs' bullpen once Kerry Wood returns in a week to ten days from now—assuming all goes according to plan. Rusch retired eight Sox hitters in a row, and gave up just five hits in eight innings. More importantly, he avoided disaster the second time through the order. Entering play Sunday, Rusch had given up 14 earned runs in 18 innings pitched while facing the opposing lineup a second time through the order.

Inside The Numbers

With Carlos Lee's game-tying homerun off Hawkins in the ninth inning Sunday, the Cubs' bullpen has now surrendered 30 longballs on the season. The 'pen has posted a 4.23 ERA and has totaled 13 wins to 11 losses. As a whole, they have converted 22 of 31 save chances this season. The Cubs are now 21-19 in one-run games, and have won nine games in their last at-bat. They are also 36-4 when leading in the ninth inning this year.

Overall

Pitching wins championships. When you take a look at the last few World Series champions (particularly last year's Marlins and the 2001 Diamondbacks with the likes of Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling all mixed in), they were each geared toward pitching. Good pitching simply beat good hitting this weekend. Unfortunately, the Cubs for the most part had neither in their first three games against the Sox at U.S. Cellular Field and lost two of three. All in all, the Cubs needed this sweep. Since the dawn of the new millennium, the team had been outplayed by the Sox in literally all but one or two series. This weekend's sweep should lift a huge monkey off the back of the Cubs, who have now won five of their last six. At any rate, we can say with most certainty that it dispels the short-lived notion that the Windy City is now a "Sox town."

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