The Cubs did something Sunday they hadn't done in exactly 30 years — win eight of 10 games on a homestand. And Jason Marquis did something he hadn't done in exactly a month — win a game.
Of course, it helped to have Pittsburgh as the opponent, the Cubs winning for the eighth time in nine tries against the Pirates and Marquis winning twice in two starts against them.
"It feels good to get a win and feel like you finally contributed to this team's winning way," Marquis said after going six innings in a 4-3 victory.
The Cubs, who started the homestand with a two-game deficit in the Central Division, head to Houston two games in front of the Cardinals and 21/2 ahead of the Astros.
Their record is 27-17, compared with 20-24 last season at this time.
"We feel confident where we're at," Marquis said. "We know we have a winning team and good chemistry in the clubhouse, and a lot of that has to do with winning ballgames. Last year we started off a little slow, and we doubted ourselves a little bit. Once we hit our stride, we had a good enough team to win."
Marquis is happy to finally be part of it. For the season, he is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA against the Pirates, 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA against everyone else.
And guess whom Marquis should face this weekend? Pittsburgh, assuming he doesn't get skipped in the rotation with Thursday's off day. But manager Lou Piniella didn't sound likely to do that, not after Marquis settled down following Adam LaRoche's two-run homer in the first inning.
"Marquis gave us what we needed," he said. "We'd like to get him on a little bit of a roll. He gave up two runs in the first, and then he held on till the sixth inning."
So three runs through six innings is good enough from Marquis?
"Yeah, no question," Piniella said. "You can win with that. Now we'd like to see seven innings of three-run ball. But six innings of three-run ball gives you a chance to win."
Marquis survived despite only four hits from his offense and with the help of Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood, who got his 10th save.
The Cubs tied the game with two runs in the third inning on three straight walks, Alfonso Soriano's sacrifice fly and Ronny Cedeno's RBI single.
They added one more in the fourth on a walk to Kosuke Fukudome, a single by Mark DeRosa, a double steal and a sacrifice fly by Reed Johnson.
And the fourth run came in the sixth on a pair of walks and Fukudome's RBI single.
"We got good pitching, and when you get good pitching, you don't need to hit nearly as much," Piniella said. "It was a wonderful homestand for us. Now we've got six important games on the road."
Soriano finished 1-for-3 and led off the game with a hit for the sixth straight time, four short of the major-league record set by Johnny Damon in 2000. Two other players have seven-game streaks.
"After my first two at-bats, they threw a lot of bad pitches and I swung," Soriano said. "I have to calm down a little bit more because they didn't throw me anything close."
So the longest homestand of the year is over, and the Cubs are feeling good about themselves after going 3-7 right before it.
"It's always nice to get off the road and know you have a long homestand, and to play the way we played makes it even better," Wood said. "Every day we come to the field, we all think we're going to win. That's a good feeling. We've got a good team, and we know it.
"But it's a long way from being over. We've got to stay healthy and continue to play good baseball."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun