When the Cubs embarked on their three-city, 10-game road trip, you didn't have to be too hardened of a cynic to think the worst.
Could they go 4-6? Oh, easy.
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How about 3-7? Sure.
Worse? That would be tough to do, but these are the Cubs.
But lo and behold, these Cubs wrapped up a whole bunch of things into one neat little package Thursday night with a 7-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
After losing the first five games of the trip at Milwaukee and St. Louis, the Cubs won the series finale against the Cardinals before sweeping the Pirates in four.
This marked the first time since 1920 that the Cubs had opened a road trip with at least 5 losses before following it up with at least a five-game winning streak. Way back then, the Cubs lost seven in a row on a trip before winning the next six.
The Cubs also did a pretty good job in their reluctant role of spoilers, putting a severe dent in the postseason chances of the Pirates.
Of course, the Cubs have no chance at the postseason, with their record of 47-65, but the finish was encouraging.
"Go figure," manager Mike Quade told reporters. "It'll drive you nuts sometimes if you try to figure it out. That's why you keep playing."
No. 5 starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez was shaky for the second straight game after the Cubs staked him to a lead. Last Saturday in St. Louis, Lopez had a 5-0 lead in the first before he and the Cubs imploded in a 13-5 loss.
On Thursday, Geovany Soto gave Lopez a 1-0 lead when he led off the third with a homer. Home runs by Carlos Pena and Blake DeWitt made it 4-0 in the fourth.
Lopez gave it all back in the bottom of the fourth, giving up 6. But the bullpen held the Bucs in check, and a 3-run eighth by the Cubs wound up winning it. Carlos Marmol notched his second straight save and fourth in five games.
In the meantime, the Cubs got a milestone hit from one of their players. Center fielder Marlon Byrd singled in the fourth for the 1,000th basehit of his career.
"I've stayed around, and I keep putting up numbers, keep on working hard," Byrd said on Comcast SportsNet's postgame TV show. "Hopefully I can move up to 1,500 hits."
The Cubs come right back Friday afternoon to play the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field after a night of travel. Quade said he would work some different players into the lineup over the next few days. But he's liked what he's seen of late.
"There's been a lot of stuff, probably in the last 20 games, that has gotten better," he said before the game. "When we get Marmol back right, and we pitch the way we have, it'll be like we did when I took over last year."