Cubs get a glimpse of raucous atmosphere

CHICAGO -- In all likelihood, 2013 will be the fifth straight season without playoff baseball at Wrigley Field. However, with one of the National League's best teams in town, the Friendly Confines was rocking and reminded Chicago just how fun things can be when there's winning baseball in the city.

On an evening when the Cubs defeated the arch-rival Cardinals 6-4, 42,240 fans packed Wrigley Field for the largest crowd on the North Side this season.

Manager Dale Sveum is in his second season with the team and was impressed by what he witnessed.

"Probably one of the better ones we've had here, since I've been here, anyway," Sveum said. "Even the players, they could sense it. Especially once we took that lead, the players really felt how big of a game it was for us."

The fans were egged on by a pair of home runs from Luis Valbuena and Alfonso Soriano, but the biggest cheers were for starter Matt Garza.

"He's been here three years now and people know he gives everything he has when he's out there," Sveum said. "He doesn't ever not come prepared, he works as hard as anybody and these fans appreciate that."

Garza tossed 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball against the highest-scoring offense in the National League. Garza, who has been at the center of trade rumors for nearly a month now, was upset with himself for not being able to finish the seventh. Still, as he walked off the field, the fans seemed to know that it could be his last start as a Cub (at least at home) and they let Garza know his work on the mound was appreciated.

"I didn't really pay attention, I was pissed off that I didn't finish that inning," Garza said. "Everybody said that everybody stood up and was clapping for me. That's awesome. But 6 2/3 doesn't deserve that. Seven, eight, nine does. I appreciate it, but I hope this isn't my last one."

Garza might not have noticed the cheers when he was pulled, but it was clear to him that the intensity was turned up a notch throughout the night.

"It's awesome," Garza said. "It's a great place to play, a great place to pitch, and the fans really embrace you when you do your job. When you don't, they embrace you, just not in a positive way. It's a great place to play, I love it here. But it is what it is."

Garza seemed resigned to his fate of being dealt to a contender in the near future, but he repeated that until his phone rings, he's not thinking about being moved.

Though Garza might not be a part of the team's future, Sveum was hopeful that this type of intensity would give the young players on his team a taste of what it could be like on a nightly basis if the Cubs return to playing playoff-caliber baseball.

Anthony Rizzo, playing his first full season in the big leagues, said there might have been a lot of Cardinals fans in the stands, but it just added to energy and the fact that two great franchises were battling on the field.

"Obviously, the more we win, the crazier people in this city are going to get," Rizzo said. "So, that's a good thing. We all want it. We all want this place to be rocking every single night."

The Cubs are pushing the future. Loads of talent should be coming from the farm system in the coming years, and those kids will hopefully be playing in a renovated and raucous Wrigley Field. For one summer night in July, the Cubs gave their city a glimpse of what that future could hold.