While the Cubs' team goals have been sunk for weeks, it's never too late for players to boost their statistics.
Even in Friday's 5-2 loss to Colorado, Carlos Zambrano, Juan Pierre, Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Theriot all had some reachable goals.
Zambrano, who threw a season-high 128 pitches in his last start of 2006, was the only one of the four who may have come up short. The National League Cy Young Award may have slipped from his grasp with a loss that left him 16-7, although his ERA actually fell to 3.41.
"It's up to the writers," Zambrano said of the voting.
"I did my job and [Chris] Carpenter and [Brandon] Webb are doing their job too. Whoever wins deserves it."
Zambrano is fifth in league ERA, tied with Webb for first in victories and stands second in strikeouts after whiffing nine Friday. But he lost the game in the seventh inning with two walks and a hit batter to go with John Mabry's error.
One fact in his favor: If the Cubs finish behind the Pirates, which is still very possible, his winning percentage will be the highest from a last-place team since Roger Clemens went 21-7 for the 1997 Toronto Blue Jays.
As for Ramirez, his RBI in the fourth made him the fifth Cub since 1954 to have 90 or more RBIs after June 1. Ernie Banks was the first and Sammy Sosa, who did it four times, the latest.
Already with season highs in RBIs (116) and home runs (37) with his average approaching .300, Ramirez is having a career year at the right time. He has the choice of becoming a free agent this winter, which surely will boost his salary here or elsewhere.
That brings us to Pierre, who definitely will become a free agent. His milestone was reaching 200 hits for the fourth time. His single Friday made him only the fourth Cub to do it since 1960 and the first since Ryne Sandberg in 1984.
"It's a benchmark," said Pierre, who's hitting .291 after reaching only .275 before the All-Star break. "I'm pretty much trying to clean up my season and getting my numbers where they need to be."
Pierre said he is keeping an open mind about next season, although "this is a place I would like to come back and play." The fate of manager Dusty Baker, however, could play into it.
"Definitely," he said. "I wouldn't want a manager who didn't like to run."
And the comments last week about playing for White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was a coach during their days with the champion Marlins?
"All I said is I like Ozzie Guillen," Pierre said. "I like him as a person. I like Buddy Bell [from Colorado]. And that's all I said. We won the World Series together [in 2003]. Other than that, I don't have any preference."
Then there's Theriot, who is trying to put up good enough numbers to make the team next season. He went 3-for-4 Friday to raise his average to .336 and scored twice.
The Cubs will break their own season (and Chicago baseball) record for attendance. They are only 55,869 short of the 2004 record of 3,170,184 with two games left. Friday's announced crowd was 33,721 and the two games this weekend should draw even more.
The Cubs are averaging 39,027 fans per home date, 755 more than last season thanks to the expanded outfield bleachers. The White Sox also set a franchise attendance record this season.
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