The Cubs are 6-1 since Milton Bradley was sent home. Coincidence?
Maybe. The Cubs are definitely playing more relaxed in the week since Bradley was suspended, and they improved to 16-9 this month with a 6-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday.
"It might be -- I don't know the answer," said Jake Fox, who hit a two-run single in the third. "I didn't think of [Bradley]. I guess it could be. Now, guys are playing relaxed and they are having fun.
"It's a learning experience," Fox said. "It shows you that if you play that way every day, regardless of what kind of pressures are on you, regardless of what people may be saying or not saying, it shows you a lot about what we can do as a team, and the rest can take care of itself because we are very talented."
Aramis Ramirez is. He smacked his 15th home run to back Tom Gorzelanny and the Cubs, who were hoping to delay the St. Louis Cardinals party a little longer.
Ramirez, who missed two months because of a dislocated left shoulder suffered May 8, now has 64 RBIs, second highest on the Cubs. Saturday was the third baseman's 79th game, and he's driven in a run every 4.63 at-bats, second among third basemen with at least 250 at-bats. In 50 games since July 22, Ramirez has 46 RBIs and is batting over .330.
"He would've been on a pace to drive in well over 100 again," Lou Piniella said of Ramirez.
Piniella mentioned this week that the Cubs needed another RBI guy. Does Ramirez need some backup?
"You've got to ask that to [general manager] Jim Hendry," Ramirez said. "My job is to play third base. I'm not going to disrespect any teammates and say we need a third baseman, we need a shortstop. We've got guys busting their tails out there. ... That's Jim's and Lou's job."
The Cubs' success is messing up the Giants' chances in the National League Wild Card.
"We came in here hoping to play good baseball, and our objective this month was to play as hard as we could as long as we could and win as many games," Piniella said. "That's what we've been doing. I don't get any satisfaction in playing the spoiler role."
They've been doing it with a team that's banged up and playing a lot of kids, too.
"I do know we're coming out and we're having fun now," Fox said.
Gorzelanny (7-2) improved to 4-1 in 12 games (six starts) for the Cubs. The lefty, acquired July 30 from Pittsburgh, gave up one run on five hits over five innings. Juan Uribe hit a two-out RBI single in the third off Gorzelanny and a leadoff homer in the eighth off John Grabow.
"[Gorzelanny] threw the ball well," Piniella said. "You look at Gorzelanny and Grabow, and they've done a real nice job here. It's a nice trade that Jim pulled with Pittsburgh. These kids figure in for the future, too."
"[Coming to Chicago] was obviously great for both of us," Gorzelanny said. "John's been doing amazing out of the bullpen for us. I'm just trying to do my part, whatever it is."
He's not looking too far ahead, either. Insert Gorzelanny into the Cubs' 2010 rotation, and it could be quite a quintet with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Randy Wells set for next year.
"It could be one of the best in the National League," Gorzelanny said. "The talent in this rotation, it's hard to compare to other rotations."
The Cubs loaded the bases against Barry Zito (10-13) to set up Fox's two-run single in the third, and loaded them again one out later after Reed Johnson walked. Another run scored on Geovany Soto's groundout. Ramirez's homer in the fourth made it 4-1 and pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome added a RBI single with two outs in the fifth.
The Cardinals' magic number to clinch the National League Central remained at one, pending the outcome of their Saturday matchup with the Rockies, whom the Cubs trail in the NL Wild Card race.
"They're going to clinch," Ramirez said of the Cardinals. "They aren't going to lose nine, 10 games in a row. They have too good a team to do that. Sooner or later, it'll happen. We don't talk about that at all.
"We have a good team, and even though we didn't play the way we liked to, we win one more game and we have a winning season," Ramirez said. "At least we have something to look for."