Cubs Can Finally Focus on Playoffs

After a week of playing meaningless games for themselves and trotting out makeshift lineups, the Cubs are ready for some playoff action.

"This has been a unique situation for me as a manager and probably as unique a situation for any manager," Lou Piniella said Sunday. "You clinch a week before, and you're playing two teams that are directly involved in postseason. I've never been involved in something like this.

"Usually, you're playing teams that have been eliminated, and you can basically do what you want without anybody scrutinizing it. But it so happens that we played the Mets. It so happens that we're playing Milwaukee at the end of the year."

Even though the Cubs have rested their regulars at times in the past week, Piniella said he's "put a little more attention" into otherwise meaningless games for his team.

Against C.C. Sabathia and the Brewers on Sunday, Piniella started left fielder Alfonso Soriano, first baseman Derrek Lee, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Ryan Theriot. The Cubs finished with a 3-4 against the Mets and Brewers after clinching the division title.

BREWERS 3, CUBS 1: RHP Bob Howry gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun in the bottom of the eighth, breaking a 1-1 tie. The Cubs used seven pitchers, including RHP Angel Guzman to start. Guzman worked two scoreless innings, giving up one hit. The Cubs had four hits, two singles by SS Ryan Theriot and two singles by 3B Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs finished the season 97-64.


--INF/OF Mark DeRosa ran lightly Sunday and will do so again Monday to test his strained left calf. He has not played since straining it last Wednesday at Shea Stadium. After first saying, "He'll be ready Wednesday," Piniella said, "We think he'll be ready Wednesday," referring to Game 1 of the NL Division Series. DeRosa said emphatically that he'd be ready for Game 1.

--RHP Carlos Zambrano will throw a side session Monday as he preps for his Game 2 NL Division Series start. Piniella toyed with the idea of starting Zambrano and letting him pitch one or two innings Sunday, but Zambrano preferred to throw a side session Monday.

--Rookie RHP Jeff Samardzija has made the postseason roster, according to Piniella. The Cubs will carry 11 pitchers in the NLDS and 14 position players. RHP Chad Gaudin is the likely odd man out in the first round. Even though Howry gave up Braun's game-deciding homer, Piniella said Sunday's results likely wouldn't change his mind on roster spots.

--C Geovany Soto did not play Sunday. He got Saturday and Sunday off after he felt pain Friday night in his troublesome left hand, which has been sore near the hand/wrist joint. Piniella said Soto was able to play but that the Cubs didn't want to take any chances.

--Theriot picked up two hits, giving him 58 multi-hit games. He finished with a .307 batting average and a .387 on-base percentage. Both of those numbers led all Cubs regulars.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Consecutive seasons in which Cubs pitchers have led the major leagues in strikeouts. They were tops this year with 1,264.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Do I get excited? This is a fun time of the year. It's what you play all year for. Hopefully this year things will go a lot better in the postseason than they did last year." -- Piniella on being in the playoffs in 2008 after getting swept out of the playoffs in the first round in 2007.

--The Sports Xchange


Major League Baseball announced on Sunday the scheduled start times for the Cubs-Los Angeles Dodgers National League Division Series. Game 1 at Wrigley Field will begin Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. CDT with Game 2 an 8:30 p.m. CDT first pitch Thursday. The series' Game 3 is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. CDT Saturday at Dodger Stadium. All television coverage will be provided by TBS.


The Cubs announced "Postseason Rally 2008" to celebrate the Cubs post-season berth and kick-off the week's playoff games at Wrigley Field. The event will take place from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, September 30 at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago.

Highlighting the afternoon's events, which will be emceed by Chicago's own Jim Belushi, are scheduled appearances from Governor Rod Blagojevich, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Hall of Famer Billy Williams. Cubs legend Ron Santo and Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney will also be in attendance.

All "Postseason Rally 2008" events are open to the public, free of charge and will take place rain or shine.

--Cubs Media Relations

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