The air is a little cooler, the stakes are a little higher and the Cubs are finally starting to get their act together on the road.
After struggling to get baserunners for eight innings on Tuesday night, the Cubs broke through with a five-run ninth against Tim Lincecum and two relievers in a 5-1 comeback win over San Francisco, their fourth victory in the last five games.
The Cubs remained tied for first place in the NL Central with Milwaukee, which pounded Arizona for the second straight game. St. Louis also won and remains three games behind the Cubs and Brewers.
Cliff Floyd, returning from the bereavement list following his father's funeral on Saturday, came up with a two-run single in the ninth to break a 1-1 tie.
Floyd said he was talking to his father in his head before he came through with the game-winning hit.
"I said, 'C'mon, pops, let's do something,' " Floyd said. "It's definitely a weird feeling. I can't really explain it other than to say he was really inside of me. I never really had this feeling before. But hopefully it'll stick with me."
Scott Eyre notched the win in relief, his first since Sept. 14, 2006, against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Eyre came on in the eighth for Jason Marquis, who overcame an early bout of wildness to throw seven innings of one-run ball.
The Cubs were 2-48 when trailing after eight innings, and things didn't look too bright heading into the ninth on Tuesday. Lincecum had shut them out on two hits through eight innings and no one had advanced past first base.
But Ryan Theriot doubled to the right-field corner leading off the inning, and Jacque Jones grounded an opposite-field single between third and short. Theriot had to hold at second on Jones' hit, and could only advance to third.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy finally got his bullpen up, but it was too late. Derrek Lee's first-pitch single to left tied the game at 1-1, and just like that, Lincecum was done.
After reliever Brad Hennessey walked Aramis Ramirez to load the bases, Floyd singled past a pulled-in infield to bring home two runs and give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
"When Theriot got that big hit, it kind of knocked the fire out of [Lincecum] a little," Floyd said. "He was rolling along. You saw him showboating a little, flipping the ball up in the air when we hit the ball back to him, but we were able to come up with some big hits in the ninth."
With two outs and runners on second and third, Jason Kendall drilled a two-run single off Steve Kline, finishing off the scoring.
Marquis began the game without any control, and it ruined his night, despite one of his better efforts of the year. He created his own mess in the first inning, walking Dave Roberts leading off before walking Ray Durham on four pitches.
After a groundout advanced the runners, manager Lou Piniella called for an intentional walk to Barry Bonds, loading the bases. Ryan Klesko's groundout to short brought home the run, before Marquis got out of the inning. He quickly regained his bearings and did not allow another run, yielding only three hits.
How big was the win?
Consider that the Cubs are 14-3-2 in series in which they win the opener, and 2-17-2 when they lose the first game.
"It was a big win, what can I say?" Piniella said. "The other two teams had already posted their wins. We did our part."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun