Over the weekend the visiting Cubs did their part to help Atlanta live up to its nickname of Hotlanta. On Friday it was the well covered, latest hot headed Z being Z moment that grabbed sports headlines. Carlos Zambrano had done his part to make sure Bobby Cox’s jersey number retirement night hosted by the Braves had a story book script for the home team. He served up five long balls in just 4 1/3 innings of work. Even former Cubs and current Braves broadcaster Chip Carey was surprised at how many home runs were witnessed that night, a rarity for a pitcher friendly ballpark with cavernous power alleys.
With the score 8-1 in favor of the Braves by the end of the fifth, there is not much else to talk about for the Cubs. John Grabow and James Russell combined to confirm that the veteran will be expendable in the off season, with the sophomore Russell continuing to show that he is ready to take over the second lefty spot in the Cubs pen for 2012 and beyond. The Cubs offense did manage four runs, highlighted by a home run by Starlin Castro to extend the team streak to 11 games with a homer.
Despite the talk of the town on Saturday being the aftermath of the Zambrano incident, the remaining 24 players on the roster did a solid job of not letting the off the field distraction affect their play. The Cubs offense backed Randy Wells with five runs through six innings, and the third year starter was able to grind through 5 innings of work despite giving up two runs on eight hits for the win.
Despite scoring eight runs total on the night, the team home run streak came to an end. Instead, the hot hitting on offense came in the shape of 4 for 5 nights by the young table setting duo of Castro and Darwin Barney. All eight hits were singles, but the small ball approach was able to account for three RBI and two runs combined from the top of the order.
Tyler Colvin produced the only extra base hits for the Cubs; a double and a triple. Cubbies Crib and Wrigley faithful alike have been clamoring to see Colvin given a true shot at being an every day player to see where the kid stands for 2012 and beyond. Management has not be long sighted like the fans, and Colvin has not been able to produce in the limited action he has seen, fair or not. But the sophomore left handed bat is showing signs of coming out of his early season struggles, and if he can start heating up for the remainder of the season, it will truly test the hot hand tendencies of manager Mike Quade. If Colvin still does not see every day playing time, we will really know that we have an idiot on the top steps of the Cubs dugout.
On Sunday afternoon, the recently hot Cubs would not be denied a fourth straight series win, despite allowing four errors and the struggling Grabow giving the lead right back to the Braves after the Cubs had clawed back from four runs down. Matt Garza set the tone for the wacky day by committing the first error, slinging his throw into right center field on what could have been a double play.
But for once, the Cubs offense picked up Garza, even it was only good enough to get the starter off the hook for the loss instead of getting him a win that is owed since July. The Cubs rallied for four runs in the sixth, highlighted by a two RBI single by Colvin. The Braves returned the Cubs generosity on the errors by allowing the tying run to score on a wild pitch.
Carlos Pena picked up Grabow by launching a go ahead two run homer off of a Braves lefty reliever, the bomb coming after the Cubs first baseman battled to a full count after falling down 0-2 in the count. Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall, and Carlos Marmol combined to keep the home team quiet the rest of the way.
Marmol now has 28 saves on the season, and while the Cubs continued their series winning streak, there was one streak that came to an end. Dan Uggla’s hitting streak had reached 33 games as of Saturday, and he had been smoking Cubs pitching all weekend long. Uggla’s best chance to extend the streak came in the fifth, when he hit a blooper that should have fell into shallow right to extend his streak to 34 games. But rookie second baseman Barney had other plans and made an amazing grab to rob Uggla.
It took the final day of July for the Cubs to win their ninth game of that month, but they have already won their 10th game of August just 14 days into the last month of summer. The Cubs will try to continue their hot run when they arrive in temperature controlled Minute Maid Park in Houston starting Monday.