For 25 innings this week the Cubs dominated their inbred brethren to the southwest. Â They out hit them, they out pitched them, they out fielded them, and their fans out-toothed Cardinals fans three to one. Â The Cubs, who had last visited Bus(c)h Stadium in June, looked nothing like they did back then. Â This was a team to be reckoned with. Â A team that had figured itself out. Â The Cardinals knew it, and though they wouldÂ never, everÂ admit it, their fans had, too.
And then Pedro Strop imploded again, the Cardinals rallied in the eighth and salvaged the final game, and left feeling pretty good about themselves. Â They are convinced, withÂ barelyÂ a shred ofÂ evidence to support it, that these are theÂ same old Cubs. Â
They underestimate our heroes at their own peril. Â These are not theÂ same old Cubs. Â This bunch will punch you in the throat and do it with a big assed grin on their faces.
If you think it’s taken us a long time to believe that these Cubs are different, imagine how long it will take their long timeÂ tormentors. Â The Cardinals can’t conceive of a Cubs team that can stand toe to toe with them and pound them into the ground. Â They saw it over and again this week, but their lasting memory will be a three run eighth in the third game, and a restored feeling of, “We can always beat them when we really need to.”
Never mind that the Cubs pounded their two best pitchers in the first two games, and jumped on Carlos Martinez in the third game and rolled up a high pitch count. Â Maybe in the long run it’s OK that they failed to put him and that third game away despite numerous chances to.
It’s true that these Cardinals aren’t whole right now. Â Whatever Randal Grichuk is has a bad elbow, Kolten Wong missed most of the series, and Matt Holliday isn’t back to take cheap shots at shortstops and second basemen. Â But that’s reality in September of any season. Â The Cubs played most of the series without Unfrozen Caveman Kyle Schwarber. Â Jorge Soler is out. Â Jason Motte is…oh, never mind, that was just fine.
These teams were at even strength and the Cubs sent a message that had the dual benefit of pumping them up and being misinterpreted and discarded by the Cardinals.
These Cubs keep surprising us, and we’ve been watching them all along. Â Every time you think they’re about to run off the rails, they straighten things out. Â They lose a player to injury and somebody else pops up to take their place. Â Schwarber hurts a rib and Javy Baez pops out of the dugout, suddenly fully formed, amazing at any position on the field defensively and much more composed at the plate.
This team relies on so many young players that you can’t believe they can keep this up…until they do.
Go ahead, rest your laurels on the fact that the CubsÂ always do something. Â Amazingly, this team travels without any of that past baggage. Â Leon Durham’s legs and Alex Gonzalez’s hands mean nothing to them. Â To them Ryan Dempster isn’t the guy who imploded on the mound in the playoffs against the Dodgers, he’s the guy who looks just like Chris Denorfia who does horrible Harry Caray impressions on TV.
I was ready for the worst when the Cubs went to St. Louis to start this road trip. Â That was my mistake. Â I underestimated them.
I’ve learned my lesson. Â The past of this franchise is full of disappointment and frustration. Â The future is nothing but guys in their 20s who rake and figure they can find a way to beat anybody.
I’m not looking back anymore.
I’ll leave that to the Cardinals. Â Soon it’s the only place they’ll find any comfort.