Sweep of Giants has Cubs dreaming about .500
by gordon wittenmyer firstname.lastname@example.org July 28, 2013 9:22PM
Updated: July 29, 2013 7:26PM
SAN FRANCISCO — Tick, tick, tick.
The players say recent trades and reports of those to come in the next 60 hours or so have not been a distraction, and they seemed to prove it with their weekend sweep of the Giants.
But how the final days before the non-waiver deadline Wednesday play out might change that fast, with their hottest remaining hitter (Nate Schierholtz) and two of their top relievers (Kevin Gregg and James Russell) among the players targeted by other teams.
“Everybody in this locker room has been through it last year,” said manager Dale Sveum, whose staff has navigated five trades this month well enough to have the team thinking about a .500 season.
“You take care of your business, and everything will fall into place, whether good or bad. They’re grown men. They understand the situation.”
If the young starting pitching that remains, along with bullpen guys such as Pedro Strop, continue to pitch well, the Cubs even might have a chance to inch closer to a winning season they haven’t had in nearly four years of Ricketts family ownership.
A 17-10 surge has the Cubs within seven games of .500 for the first time since May.
“To be part of something, to continue winning right through and up to winter time [is important],” Sveum said. “A lot of these young guys have to get a feeling for that in the big leagues.”
All three games in the San Francisco sweep were one-run decisions, with two decided in the ninth inning.
“That feeling these last three games here, how every out and every pitch meant everything in situations,” Sveum said, “that multiplies by 10 when you’re in a pennant race. You want to feel those [high-pressure] things and get them out of the way by the time we’re really ready to win.”
Already an All-Star pitcher, lefty Travis Wood is starting to make a name for himself as one of the best hitters in the game at his position.
His two-hit game included the first home run by a pitcher that two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum had allowed in his career. And it made Wood 12-for-41 (.293) with three homers and an .863 OPS that only two other hitters in the Cubs lineup can match.
“I swear to God, just before he hit that [home run], I was remembering [Yovani] Gallardo winning a game by himself here with a home run off Randy Johnson,” said Sveum, who says Wood is one of the best-hitting pitchers he’s seen. “Sure enough, he hits a home run.
“I think he’s the best that can handle good pitching, too. … He lays off stuff, takes good swings at most everything.”