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All cylinders clicking for streaking Cubs
In a town that loves to talk, the Cubs are more than happy to hit the mute button on themselves.
After all, actions speak louder than words, as they proved again Saturday in a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets on a chilly afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Kerry Wood's pitching and Sammy Sosa's bat helped the Cubs to their fifth straight triumph, a streak in which they have outscored the opposition 35-4.
"They don't talk about it, they just play," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "That's what I like about this team."
Wood (3-1) threw seven shutout innings, allowing four hits while striking out nine and reducing his earned-run average to 2.60.
Sosa hit his fifth homer and scored two of the three runs, putting the Cubs in position on Sunday for their second straight three-game sweep of the Mets at Wrigley Field.
"It has been a lot of years I've been suffering," Sosa said. "Thank God the organization has put a good team together. Now we're going forward. Something is going to happen before I retire."
The Cubs improved to 11-6 and appeared to be living up to their hype in all facets of the game.
Since 1972 only the 2000 Cubs have hit more home runs (41) during the first month than the 33 homers the current squad already has.
Starting pitchers Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Clement and Sergio Mitre are a combined 8-2 with a 2.37 earned-run average and 81 strikeouts in 832/3 innings.
On Saturday, the Cubs got big defensive plays by Todd Walker and Aramis Ramirez, both of whom were labeled as defensive liabilities when they came to Chicago.
"Everybody gets ready for the game in their own way and goes out and does their job," Wood said. "And collectively we're doing our job. There's not a whole lot of talking, not a whole lot of hoopla going on. We're taking care of business."
Most of Wood's strikeouts Saturday came on sliders, though he still was throwing 98-m.p.h. fastballs in the sixth inning. He ran into trouble in the sixth with a leadoff infield hit and a walk, but Wood got Mike Piazza on a flyout, then struck out Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia on sliders.
"The amazing thing about his start is that as good as he has been, he still hasn't gotten to his best yet," Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said. "It's going to be scary when he does get there, because the way he has been pitching lately, he has been making some good hitters look pretty bad."
Sosa homered into a 15-m.p.h. wind in the first inning.
The Cubs added a run in the second thanks to some questionable strategy by Mets manager Art Howe, who let starter Tyler Yates pitch to No. 8 hitter Ramon Martinez with Derrek Lee on third and two outs, rather than walk Martinez to face Wood.
Martinez's RBI single on a 1-0 pitch made it 2-0.
The Cubs added one more in the third when Spencer failed to make a diving catch of Ramirez's sinking liner in left with Sosa on second. Spencer's one-hop throw to the plate had Sosa beat, but the ball glanced off catcher Vance Wilson's glove as Sosa slid home.
Sosa has only 10 RBIs in the first 17 games, tied for fifth on the team with Walker. But with the rest of the lineup producing, Sosa has been able to blend into the backgroundat least as much as someone with 544 career home runs can blend.
"You never can do it by yourself," Sosa said. "We have Moises [Alou], we have Aramis, we have Lee. Everybody in the lineup right now is swinging the bat pretty good. I'm saying to myself, I don't have to go up there and be the hero every day."