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Cubs take over first place for first time since April 21

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Milton Bradley is safe as he hook-slides into home during the Cubs 5-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds Sunday. He said after the game he learned the move from watching Mike Fontenot. (AP Photo)

Ready your best baseball clichés; the Cubs are in first place.

Every game counts from here on out.

It sure is better to be the hunted than the hunters.

Take it one day at a time, one at-bat at a time moving forward.

Give 110 percent every time they take the field.

Then, let the chips fall where they may.

There were those who offered these and other rote post-game sound bites after Sunday's 5-2 win against the Cincinnati Reds. And then there was Milton Bradley.
"I don't think we're going to get any nicer articles written about us," said Bradley. "But we are in first place. It's hard to find the negative in that."

True. But people will try. After all, fortunate scheduling can't be overlooked in the Cubs' 8-2 record since the All-Star break. Who wouldn't want to play seven games against the Nationals and Reds after a few days of rest? And if you're chasing a team in your division [the Cardinals], they might as well be facing the hottest team in baseball [the Phillies].

But Bradley brought up a good point after the game.

"Are we going to stop being bashed by everybody?" he asked reporters. "Are there going to be less articles about our lineup and how it was better last year and all that garbage? Last year's team was sitting at home just like everybody else. There's only one champion."

To answer Bradley's questions: No, even when our teams are at their best - perhaps because we're so used to the mighty always epically falling here - we will still find something to bash. And while the articles about the Cubs' lineup will most likely continue, their main point will probably not be that last year's was better - especially if the team keeps hitting like it did today.   

There's certainly something to be said for momentum - and the fact that it's been so scarce around the Friendly Confines this season.

The last time the Cubs were in first place, the Bulls still stood a chance against the Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Sure, the players were upbeat in the clubhouse, after Sunday's game, but they're not about to start telling fans to book their World Series tickets quite yet - or their NLDS tickets for that matter.

The important thing to note in these wins is that the Cubs are beating the teams they should beat and they're playing decent baseball against the teams they could potentially face if they do make a playoff run.

And they're doing all of this despite a litany of injuries.

They're doing it because of guys like Jake Fox - who stepped in admirably today for Derrek Lee.

They're doing it because of guys like Rich Harden - who proved today that questioning his ability to pitch while the sun is shining is, in his words, "ridiculous."

They're doing it because of Aramis Ramirez. Since his return from the disabled list with a separated shoulder, he's sparked the team's resurgence. He's batting .563 on this homestand and coming up with key hits in crucial moments.

"We're doing everything right," said Ramirez after the game. "We're pitching. We're hitting. We're playing some good baseball."

An there's nothing cliché about good baseball on the North Side of Chicago.

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The Cubs are beating the teams that they need to beat. There's no shame in it. Plus, sweeping any team is difficult. Sweeping two teams, including a 4 game series, is always admirable. Neither the Reds or the Nationals are in danger of going 0-162.

The thing about being a long suffering Cub fan means one has seen these promising moments over and over again.What's different this time? The emergence of our farm system that obviously wasn't gutted in recent years during a few desperate attempts to sell the club's soul for a world championship.Jake Fox and Randy Wells are just a couple of homegrown talents who are just as responsible for this surge as anyone.Look for more contributions from the farm to balance out Lou's guiding hand through injuries,quirky injuries and just plain 'ol bad luck.Getting to first place wasn't supposed to take so much out of the ballclub and fans but the trick is maintaining the status of hunted.Let the rollercoaster begin and pass the Zantac 75.

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This page contains a single entry by Kevin Allen published on July 26, 2009 5:49 PM.

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