After getting swept in Milwaukee, Cubs fans did not have high hopes for success in San Francisco, having to face Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum on Monday night. However, Randy Wells went toe to toe with the Giants ace through four innings, only allowing a walk and one hit. His offense finally struck Lincecum for a run in the top of the fifth thanks to a lead off home run by Alfonso Soriano. Other than that, both pitchers were able to keep the opposing offenses down until the top of the seventh.
That is when things surprisingly fell apart for Lincecum. He allowed another lead off homer, this time to the struggling Geo Soto, and followed that mistake by walking Wells. Starlin Castro reached on an error and both men were along for the ride on a three run shot by Blake DeWitt that travelled just along side the foul line and pole. Thanks to the Cubs, Lincecum allowed three long balls in one outing for the first time in his career. Carlos Pena added to the home run derby with a solo shot of his own off reliever Steve Edlefsen and before you knew it, the Cubs had put five on the board in the frame.
Wells made sure he was not left in the shadows of the power display. Staked to a 5-0 that probably felt like a 10-0 lead against an anemic Giants offense, Wells cruised to the first complete game shut out of his career. He only allowed two hits total on the night while striking out seven. That gives him 13 Ks in his last two outings while only allowing four hits and three walks over the last 15 2/3 innings of work. Is the Randy Wells of 2009 back for good? The Cubs will have plenty of jobs in the rotation to fill if Carlos Zambrano is not allowed to return in 2012, and there would be one less hole to fill if Wells can show that his struggles over the last two seasons were just the growing pains of catcher being converted to a pitcher.
Matt Garza followed up Wells with a quality outing of his own. He was staked to an early lead thanks to the rare occasion of his offense coming through for him, and he was able to make it hold up through 6 2/3 innings. He kept his walks down (one) while striking out six and the three headed monster at the back of the Cubs bullpen shut down the Giants the rest of the night, not allowing any runners to reach while striking out three. Carlos Marmol capped it off with his 31st save of the season.
The offense was sparked again by a Soriano home run, his 24th of the season, but a Soto ground rule double with the bases loaded is what secured a comfortable win for the Cubs. The visitors from Chicago clinched the series win with one game to spare and continued to live up to their role of spoiler. Last season it was the Cubs that dealt the Padres a serious blow in the final week of the 2010 season that eventually helped the Giants catch up to the NL West leaders at the time. Of course as we know, the Giants went on to win the West on the last day of the season, and rode that momentum all the way to the first World Series crown for San Fransisco.
While the Padres are not the beneficiary of the Cubs spoiling antics this season, Chicago has put a dent in the Giants attempt to get back into the playoffs to defend their title, with Arizona streaking right now. Time will tell if the Giants have one last run in them, but for the time being the Cubs have down their job to block a Giants repeat.
The Cubs must have been happy to settle for the series win against the defending champs on getaway day Thursday afternoon. They did not put up much of a fight against Madison Bumgarner, as they scratched two singles off of the lefty while striking out eleven times. That was not the kind of effort fifth starter Rodrigo Lopez can work around, and the Giants finally got to him in the fourth for back to back homers before adding single tallies in the next two innings.
Despite the loss to end the month, the series win allowed the Cubs to finish August with 16-14 record, the first time they have completed a month in 2011 with a over .500 record.