Cubs @ Astros, Game 45

Cubs 7, Astros 2 (W) WP: Lilly (5), LP: Sampson
Record: 28-17 (1st place)

Soto: “I was like, ‘No way.’ I was using my last breath to get to third, and he wants me to go home.”

It looked like it should’ve been an actual out-of-the-park home run but Geovany had to earn it by running full steam around the bases, making it to home plate standing up. The Cubs (with the help of Carlos Marmol and bullpen, once again) put up a huge win against the Astros tonight. Lance Berkman went 0 for 4 with 3 K’s coming into today with a 17-game hitting streak.

The Cubs are still making a case for themselves as the best team in baseball. With 262 runs scored and 186 runs scored, their 76 run differential is the largest in baseball. The team with the second most runs scored is Boston with 246. When the Cubs offense is clicking on all cylinders, they are unstoppable. Even when it isn’t, anyone on the team can step up.

I’m not surprised at all by Soto’s emergence as one of the top catchers in the league. As a tribute to the best Cubs rookie since Jerome Walton, let’s take a look at all of his extra-base hits. He seems to like them a lot.

This game was a lot closer than the final score would indicate. Ted Lilly was in trouble in the ninth with Carlos Lee on second when Hunter Pence hit a long fly ball into straightaway center. I saw it traveling and Jim Edmonds running backwards trying to track and I thought “he isn’t even close”. Then he makes the backwards over-the-shoulder basket catch. If you’re going to do stuff like that, you can play for this team.

Michael Wuertz came in in relief in the 8th of Jon Lieber, who did a fantastic job in the 6th and 7th after Lilly was done. He gave up two straight hits to Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui and Piniella wasn’t having it. Men on 1st and 3rd with no outs? The answer is Marmol. He gets Tejada to pop out to short, strikes out Berkman, and Carlos Lee grounds to third to end the inning. Was it ever in doubt? Geez.

Cub first: Strange things are happening to the Cubs this season. Its the countdown to the 100th anniversary of their last World Series win. Its also the season that they snap that streak. So as we countdown to the 2008 World Champion Chicago Cubs victory party, let’s track historic Cub firsts…

(1) Soto is the first Cubs catcher to record an inside-the-park homer since Cal Neeman raced around the bases on June 17, 1959, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.*

*from cubs.com

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