Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest theory replaced all the talk of curses and ghosts Saturday during the second game of the Cubs-Boston series.
The Cubs managed to survive a four-run deficit, the loss of starter Carlos Zambrano and closer Ryan Dempster's scary ninth inning to sneak away with a 7-6 victory over the Red Sox on another wild and windy day at Wrigley Field.
"People are excited. Our fans are into it," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Quite frankly, I wish we had this excitement every day. It picks us up."
The Cubs needed a pickup on a bizarre afternoon in which Zambrano suffered a sprained left big toe. They moved to six games above .500 for the first time, capturing their 12th victory in their last 15 games to move to within 5½ games of National League Central leader St. Louis.
Todd Hollandsworth and Todd Walker had three hits apiece as the Cubs rapped out 12 hits against Boston starter Wade Miller (2-2) and two relievers. In the first two games of the series, the Cubs have scored 21 runs and are hitting .432 against Boston's beleaguered staff.
After struggling offensively for most of the first two months, the Cubs now lead the National League with a .277 average, vaulting to the top by hitting .332 since June 1 and averaging 6.0 runs per game in that 10-game span. Over the last 60 years, the Cubs have finished first in NL hitting only four times: in 1945 (.277), 1978 (.264), 1988 (.261) and 1989 (.261).
"For us to get in the playoffs, we're going to have to hit one through nine," Walker said. "Or at least one through eight. But with our pitchers, as well as they hit, you expect one through nine."
Dempster yielded two runs before stranding the tying run on second when he retired Trot Nixon on a foul pop to third.
"It's a pretty good feeling when you're this close to getting booed and blowing a save, to get it done," Dempster said, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. "Hearing the crowd go nuts like that was nice."
It a tough day all around for Zambrano, who started poorly for his second straight outing and left with the toe injury after making an awkward slide into second base in the fifth.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first after a pair of walks and Nixon's three-run homer. Bill Mueller's homer in the second made it 4-0, and Zambrano had thrown 59 pitches after only two innings.
But the Cubs bounced back in the second on five straight singles off Miller, including RBI hits by Walker and Hollandsworth before Zambrano's double-play grounder brought home the third run of the inning. The Cubs tied it in the fourth on Hollandsworth's run-scoring groundout after Walker's triple.
The Cubs went ahead 5-4 in the sixth after Zambrano's exit, making a winner out of Todd Wellemeyer (2-1). With one out, Walker singled, advanced on Hollandsworth's opposite-field double and scored on Henry Blanco's sacrifice to center. They added two insurance runs in the eighth before Dempster's shaky ninth.
John Olerud's leadoff double off the left-field wall ricocheted off Corey Patterson's head before Edgar Renteria's one-out single made it 7-5. With two outs, Manny Ramirez lined a pitch into the right-field corner for a double, scoring Renteria and putting the tying run in scoring position.
But Dempster retired Nixon for his eighth straight save.
"Sometimes they're easy and sometimes they're hard," Dempster said. "But the bottom line is not letting that tying run cross the plate."
email@example.comCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times