The 1984 season brings back memories both delicious and dreadful for Cubs fans, and now they have a companion piece to compare it to.
By sweeping Atlanta 10-2 and 8-0 Wednesday in a day-night doubleheader at Turner Field, the Cubs moved 26 games above .500 (73-47) for the first time since finishing 96-65 in '84.
They have won seven straight road games for the first time since June 2004, and are on pace to win 99 games, something they haven't done since winning 100 games in 1935.
"This has been as exciting as it gets, but it's not over," center fielder Jim Edmonds said. "If we go [to the postseason] and don't advance through the first round, than it doesn't mean anything. This is just the first step in the season, when you're expected to play well and win."
Edmonds and Geovany Soto both homered and drove in four runs on the day, while Aramis Ramirez added three RBIs. Jason Marquis improved to 8-7 with a 51/3-inning stint in the opener and, after two hours of down time, the Cubs scored four first-inning runs off Jorge Campillo in the nightcap to make life simple for Rich Harden.
Working on eight days' rest, a rusty Harden (2-1) walked five in five shutout innings but gave up only two hits, including an infield single, while lowering his earned-run average to 1.80.
"It was one of those games where I had to fight through it," Harden said. "I didn't really have great stuff, and I was struggling to find the strike zone there for a couple of innings. I'm not one to make excuses, but I lost a little feel for a couple of innings."
On a wild day that included an apology from Alfonso Soriano to his teammates for not hustling, a purpose pitch that sailed behind Soriano's head and a head-turning slide into home plate by Derrek Lee, the Cubs earned their first doubleheader sweep on the road since beating St. Louis in a twinbill at old Busch Stadium on June 8, 1992.
After routing the Braves in Game 1, the Cubs ended the suspense early again in Game 2. The key play came in the first when Edmonds hit a grounder to first with runners on the corners and a 1-0 lead. Casey Kotchman tried to nail Lee at the plate and catcher Brian McCann got the ball in time and whirled to his left to make the tag.
But Lee slid around McCann and awkwardly slapped the plate with his hand like he was playing a game of Twister. Kosuke Fukudome's two-run single made it 4-0, and the Cubs were on a roll again.
When all was said and done, the Cubs had pounded out 24 hits, and every Cubs reliever but Carlos Marmol got some work in, combining for 72/3 shutout innings and allowing only four hits.
The Cubs were aided in the marathon affair by thousands of road-tripping fans who took over the park in Game 1 as if they owned it. They made up about 75 percent of the crowd for the make-up of Tuesday night's rainout, and even booed Soriano for not hustling when he stood at the plate admiring a fly he thought would clear the fence.
It didn't, and Soriano wound up with a single and a lecture from manager Lou Piniella, leading to his apology to Piniella and the team.
"He's a wonderful young man," Piniella said. "I told him, 'You're a leader here. If I don't say something to you, how can I say something to someone else?' "
Soriano's baserunning gaffe was an asterisk by the end of the night. The Cubs had their first doubleheader sweep since the division-clinching affair against Pittsburgh on the final weekend of the 2003 season, and everyone was celebrating by the end of the night.
"It was a long day," Piniella said. "But a productive one."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun