As another baseball season draws to a close, there have been quite a few surprises this year, but nothing like what the Chicago Cubs have accomplished. The Cubs went into their Sept. 9 game at San Juan, Puerto Rico, against the Montreal Expos in first place with a record of 76-67.
Randall Simon helped the Cubs into the top spot in the National League's Central Division by hitting two home runs in a 9-2 win over Milwaukee on Sept. 7.
This was coupled with a Houston loss to San Diego putting the Cubs in front by a half-game.
The Cubs, under first-year manager Dusty Baker, has the team full with energy and he has them believing they can win.
The Cubs have solid pitching in Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Matt Clement, and they have a good bullpen as well.
They have good speed in the outfield in Kenny Lofton, who was acquired in a trade before the trading deadline in June. Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou anchor the Cubs outfield in right and left respectively. Sosa is leading the team in homers with 34 and is hitting at a .294 average, while Alou is hitting .288, including going five-for-five against the St. Louis Cardinals in a big series for both teams recently.
Chicago has several players in double digits in home runs besides Sosa. Alou has hit 20, followed by Aramis Raminez with 21, shortstop Alex Gonzalez with 18. Simon has hit 15, including two Sept. 7 in Milwaukee. Outfielder Cory Patterson hit 13 before being lost to the team for the season, and Eric Karros has hit 11 for Chicago after being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with second baseman Mark Grudzielanek for catcher Randy Hundley.
Prior leads Cubs pitchers with 15 wins and a respectable .241 ERA.
Carlos Zambrano, Matt Clement and Kerry Wood all have 12 wins apiece, while closer Joe Borowski has recorded 25 saves to lead the team.
Former Brave Mike Remlinger, Kyle Farnsworth, Mark Gutherie and Al Alfonseca have helped as well.
Catchers Damian Miller and Paul Bako have handled the pitching at a high level throughout the season.
No matter how the season turns out for the Cubs, their fans will have a reason to be proud of their team.