Lou Piniella is from the old school, so when he was asked if his Cubs might be a team of destiny, he went back to the ABC's of baseball:
"I don't believe in destiny. I believe in good pitching and good defense and timely hitting. That's destiny. You do enough of that, you create your own destiny."
And so the Cubs created a little more of what has made them the best team in baseball this season, hitting and pitching just enough and having some good fortune thrown in with the defense part.
Their 3-2 victory Friday over the Phillies was their seventh in a row and 20th in August, this one coming on Derrek Lee's seventh-inning, game-saving stop-and-throw that may or may not have beaten the runner to first base, Alfonso Soriano's game-winning homer in the bottom of the seventh and a stingy bullpen.
"[The umpires] called him out, so he's out," said Jeff Samardzija, who was covering first on Ryan Howard's grounder that ended a Phillies rally.
Samardzija was awarded his first major-league victory despite a shaky 11/3 innings, needing 12/3 innings of perfect relief from Carlos Marmol, who saved the game and the ball for Samardzija.
"Carlos gave it to me, but I might just give it right back to him," Samardzija said. "He deserves it more than I do. "
Marmol picked up his first save since Aug. 3, pitching the ninth because closer Kerry Wood had finished four straight games. He has not allowed a run in 16 outings since pitching in the All-Star Game.
"I feel stronger than in the first half," he said. "The team needed me. It doesn't bother me [to throw more than an inning]."
Actually, Samardzija hasn't been bad either, with 132/3 scoreless innings dating to Aug. 1.
"He's a young man pitching in a pennant race against some pretty good hitters," Piniella said. "This is a learning experience for him. The more experience we can get him, the better he's going be as the season goes on."
Cubs starter Rich Harden lasted only five innings, walking four and striking out five. He allowed two runs but only one was earned. He ended August with a 3-0 record and 1.82 ERA in five starts
As for the Cubs offense, most of it came from a new-found patience. Mark DeRosa led off the fifth inning with a walk and scored on pinch-hitter Daryle Ward's forceout that could have been a double play if Jimmy Rollins had not botched the throw to first.
The Cubs tied the game in the sixth without a hit as starter Joe Blanton walked the bases loaded and ex-Cub Scott Eyre walked Kosuke Fukudome on five pitches.
An inning later, Soriano hit his first home run since Aug. 14 to the delight of 40,844 fans at Wrigley Field.
"I've been more selective at home plate and I try to make contact," he said. "It was a very good pitch, and I hit it very hard."
That was Piniella's "timely hitting" part of old-school baseball.
A team of destiny?
"I don't know about that," DeRosa said. "I don't put much stock in that. I think we're just a good team and play well together and care about each other."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun