The season is only eight games old, and already the Chicago Cubs are killing me.
Thankfully for my heart, the Cubs overcame a dreadful 0-2 start (to a 162-game season, remember) and have now won five of their last six games.
The thing is, it’s the way they’ve won those games.
So far, Chicago has enjoyed one game in which it played well from beginning to end to earn a win. But that’s it. The rest have all been nearly seizure-inducing.
The last two games have been the most thrilling — and the most frustrating. The Cubs ripped through two Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers on Monday, taking a 7-0 lead through four innings.
But then Ted Lilly made like his first start of the season and his last start of last season — when he got bombed by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the playoffs — and gave nearly all of it back. Before the end of the eighth, the Bucs had tied the game at 8 and were working on sending it into extra innings. Thankfully, a fantastic three-inning performance by fossil Jon Lieber and a sacrifice fly led to a 12-inning win.
Wednesday night was even more thrilling — and even more frustrating. Ryan Dempster was flat-out brilliant, allowing zero runs and just one hit in 7 1/3 innings as the Cubs built a 2-0 lead. But then Carlos Marmol gave up a run in the eighth and Kerry Wood allowed a leadoff homer to Jason Bay to start the ninth — meaning more extra innings.
Five innings later — FIVE! — the Cubs appeared to have the game wrapped up finally on a two-strike, two-out, two-run bomb by Aramis Ramirez. But Bay reached on an infield single against Kevin Hart, and then Adam LaRoche — the same Adam LaRoche who never got a big hit for the Braves — snapped an 0-for-25 slump and blasted a two-run shot to send it to the 15th.
Finally — FINALLY! — the Cubs got two more in when Felix Pie, with the bus warming to take him to Triple-A Iowa, leaked a two-out bases-loaded single after the Pirates elected to intentionally walk the .135-hitting Alfonso Soriano.
Sean Marshall, who came up to Pittsburgh on that bus from Iowa Wednesday, picked up the save — but not before allowing a double and causing Cubs fans everywhere to pour another drink. Thank God he got two more outs and the win.
Somehow, Chicago is just a game-and-a-half out of first place behind the St. Louis Cardinals and half a game back of the Milwaukee Brewers, two teams who have gotten off to 7-2 and 6-2 starts, respectively, that have been dramatically different than the Cubs’ 5-3 opening. All of their wins seem like they come on cruise control, while the Cubs’ victories have been brought to us by the good people at Maalox.
And to think, there are only 154 games left.