Successful trip brings Cubs closer together


SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chicago Cubs have a chance to finish the season with a winning road record. Their 6-4 trip against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants put them at 26-29 on the year.

"I can't remember ... having this kind of trip to the West Coast," Sveum said after his team's 2-1 win Sunday. "Winning six out of 10 on the West Coast is one of the hardest things to do in baseball."

The Cubs swept a series in San Francisco for the first time since September of 1993.

Overall, the trip also featured a few trades, including a deal to send team leader Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees. It seemed with every trade, the Cubs got better.

"We know we can do it with the young guys we have," catcher Welington Castillo said. "Everybody is doing their part."

Pitcher Travis Wood, who reclaimed his ace-of-the-staff mantel by giving up only one unearned in seven innings Sunday, says he believes trades make teams come together.

"I feel trades always make teams closer, everyone kind of pulls things together," Wood said.

Winning three consecutive close, low-scoring games can also galvanize a team filled with young players.

"Being part of something, continuing to win up to the winter time -- a lot of these guys get a feeling for that in the big leagues," Sveum said. "Get that feeling that every out and every pitch meant something. These guys multiply by 10 in a pennant race."

Lake runs dry: Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said he traded Soriano partially to get youngster Junior Lake some playing time. Since the deal, Lake has gone 0-for-13, abruptly ending his seven-game hitting streak with which he started his major league career. Lake's average dropped to .349 after going 0-for-4 Sunday with a strikeout.

Soriano still a Cubs hero: The visitor's clubhouse reacted loudly when former Cub Soriano hit a home run against Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Moore at Yankee Stadium. His former teammates were watching the game in the lunch room when Soriano homered. Later, Soriano got a walk-off hit to win the game.

"We were so happy, we jumped out of our seats," Castillo said. "We see he hit a homer, we (were) pretty happy for him. He got to continue doing what he (has) always (done)."

Get in front of it: The Cubs opened up an opportunity for the Giants in the ninth when Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro failed to get in front of a bounced throw by Castillo. Giants pinch hitter Kensuke Tanaka was stealing second when Castillo threw wide and short of second base. Instead of moving to smother the ball with his body, Castillo attempted to short-hop the throw with a swipe. He missed the ball completely and Tanaka took third on the play.

However, with Tanaka the tying run at third with two outs, closer Kevin Gregg got pinch hitter Gregor Blanco to pop up to Castro to end the game.