The combination of the jump in offensive production and steady pitching has led the Bucs to a 6-2 start to this homestand, and given them some newfound confidence.
“Going off the past, we hadn’t been doing so well,” LaRoche said. “So you go in thinking, ‘Well, if we can win five or six then, we’ll be doing OK.’ And now, all of a sudden, we’ve taken off and won, what is it? Four in a row?
“Five tomorrow,” he added. “Excuse me.”
Paul Maholm had his trademark outing—7 innings, but 8 baserunners and 4 earned runs—the offense cranked out 12 hits, including 2 home runs, and the Pirates slowed down the Cubs, 8-4.
And that’s with LaRoche and Jason Bay combining to go 0 for 9 with 3 strikeouts and 9 left on base.
But, Adam’s right:
We won yesterday. If we win today, that’s two-in-a-row. If we win tomorrow, that’s called a winning streak; it has happened before.
Marquis is coming off a solid win over the Brewers. The right-hander gave up one run on four hits over seven innings, and picked up his first win since May 9. He was pulled after 77 pitches because Cubs manager Lou Piniella wanted him to leave with a good feeling. This will be his last start before the All-Star break, and he could use another feel-good game.
His 3.31 ERA to date represents a significant improvement over the heinous line he posted with St. Louis last year. Marquis started off hot in April, cooled off a little in May and June, but came back with a vengeance against Milwaukee in his only July outing. All things considered, it’s been $4.75 million well spent for Jim Hendry and Chicago.
The Pirates started off this homestand right, taking two of three from the Nats and then three of four from the Brewers. Winning a fourth consecutive series would be swell, but our work is cut out for us. Tomorrow, the resurgent Ted Lilly faces John Van Benschoten, and on Sunday, Carlos Zambrano pitches against Shane Youman.
Each matchup favors the Cubs, who currently sit in second place in the NL Central, 4.5 games back. Like the Bucs, they’re riding a hot steak and would love to go into the All-Star break on a high note.