When you get this kind of performance from a guy like Dan Haren, at Busch Stadium, against the mighty St. Louis Cardinals — a 9-0 wipeout — well, it’s pretty weird.
Haren, whom the Cubs acquired in a trade with the Marlins on July 31, sported a 6.31 ERA in five starts in August. But on Monday, he threw seven scoreless innings and helped extend the Cubs’ winning streak to four.
Of course, there were home runs — Dexter Fowler cranked a leadoff blast, and Addison Russell hit a three-run homer in the third inning — but it was the overall ease with which the Cubs stunned the best team in baseball and its red-clad Labor Day crowd that was disorienting.
Does everything president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer touch turn to gold? Or at least polished silver?
Russell, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Fowler, Kyle Schwarber, on and on, they perform like gems.
Russell’s homer was the 57th by a Cubs rookie this season, one behind the club record of 58 set in 1966. Russell, Bryant, Baez, etc., will blow that record out of the water like a grenade under a lily pad.
The Cubs are 22 games over .500, and as “Hey Hey Holy Mackerel!” goes, “the Cubs are on their way!”
Can we believe?
That team fight song was written in 1969, sung by a chorus of then-active Cubs — way before the Bears even dreamed of “The Super Bowl Shuffle” — and, no, the Cubs weren’t on their way. The ’69 Cubs folded in a way that would stun a hotel towel.
But that was then. Right?
The magic number for the Cubs to make the playoffs is 18 with 26 games left. It’s odd that the Cubs are in third place in their division, behind the Cardinals and Pirates, and yet have the fourth-best record in baseball. But that’s the deal.
So a one-game playoff against the second-place Pirates on
Oct. 7 seems inevitable. The only question is whether the game will be in Chicago or Pittsburgh. And that depends on whether the Cubs can pass the Pirates, who are two games ahead.
Oh, there’s so much up in the air.
Cubs fans are balloons floating in a sky full of needles. Danger is everywhere, but so is blue freedom and release.
When Bryant hit that monstrosity of a home run Sunday against the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field — a golf-swing moon-launch estimated at 495 feet, the longest homer in the majors this year — he didn’t watch it as he took off for first base. He didn’t see the ball hit the new video board in left field and ricochet back into the crowd.
No embarrassing the other team, he said later. No showing off.
And that might be the Cubs’ best hope for the postseason and all the queries about curses that will inundate them. Just make it business.
Have fun — something manager Joe Maddon believes in — but keep it workmanlike. The young talent on this team seems legit. And the mix somehow is making everyone do their best when it counts — i.e. Haren, the 34-year-old, well-traveled vet. The Cubs are Haren’s eighth big-league team.
And then there’s Fowler, in his eighth year in the bigs. He never had hit more than 13 homers in a season, and he has 17 this year. And he has scored a career-high 90 runs. With all those games left.
It has been hard to stick with the Cubs during their recent five years of terribleness. But they claimed they were building a solid ballclub. And maybe they have.
In the big win over the Cards, we got to see the major-league debut of young pitcher Carl Edwards Jr., the fireballing pride of Prosperity, South Carolina.
To call Edwards skinny is to call a leaf green. Listed at 6-2, 155 pounds, Edwards turned sideways on the mound and looked like a swizzle stick rotated. The guy almost disappeared.
But he flamed the side out in the eighth inning, giving up no hits and a lone walk.
Maybe he’ll be a factor as this season closes out.
Who knows? The Cubs are in rare air. Breathe, if you dare.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.