So this is what it looks like. This is the Cubs team that Sammy Sosa insisted had the most talent of any since he moved to the North Side in 1992.
The Cubs finally put it all together Thursday in their 6-1 victory over the Padres.
They hit four home runs, two by Sosa. Their pitchers threw almost nothing but blanks. And they nabbed two overzealous Padres on the bases.
Guess all the Cubs needed was an extra month of spring training.
"Everybody knows we're a lot better team than the way we've played," Kerry Wood said.
Wood overcame a bout of food poisoning and early wildness to help the Cubs end their five-game losing streak.
The 24-year-old right-hander won't soon forget his first time pitching in San Diego. Eager to make the most of his time in paradise, Wood took a day trip to Sea World on Tuesday.
His mistake was stopping for lunch and ordering spaghetti. It left him in the bathroom for much of Tuesday and in bed for hours on Wednesday.
"I think I had otter," Wood joked.
Wood said the illness might have helped him. At least it simplified his game plan.
"I didn't feel nauseous," he said. "I just didn't have any energy, so I couldn't overthrow. I just tried to throw strikes and stay aggressive."
Wood, who walked 13 batters in his last two starts, was erratic to start the game. He walked leadoff hitter D'Angelo Jimenez and made catcher Todd Hundley leap for two pitches to No. 2 hitter Mark Kotsay.
"I didn't have a breaking ball at all," he said. "So it was just get ahead and hope they hit it at somebody."
They hit it at Corey Patterson in the fourth inning. With one out and runners at first and second, Sean Burroughs lifted a fly to medium-deep center field.
Patterson caught it and threw a perfect strike to third to stun a tagging Ryan Klesko.
One inning later Deivi Cruz drove a ball to the gap in right-center field. Sosa hit cutoff man Augie Ojeda, whose perfect relay throw to third prevented Cruz from earning a triple.
Moises Alou then made a superb sliding catch in the eighth.
"Probably our best defensive game of the year," Wood said.
Sosa and Alou were even better with their bats. Sosa took Brett Tomko deep twice, giving him four homers in less than 24 hours and 12 for the season, one ahead of Houston's Lance Berkman and Florida's Cliff Floyd.
Sosa's 56th career multihomer game moved him into a tie with White Sox minor-leaguer Jose Canseco for 22nd on the career list with 462 home runs. Dave Winfield, who attended Thursday's game, is next at 465.
"When he starts hitting like this, it's scary to watch," manager Don Baylor said.
But only for the opponent.
After Sosa hit his second homer, Alou, batting cleanup for the second time this season, clanked Tomko's next pitch off the left-field scoreboard.
"I'm always saying that we have a great ballclub," Sosa said.
"When everybody finds the little thing that they're missing, we're going to do a lot of damage."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times