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Levine: Cubs Offense Balanced To Win

By Bruce Levine--

WRIGLEY FIELD (CBS) -- For years, the Cubs have been looking for balance in their lineup. As far back as 13 years ago, then-general maanger Jim Hendry and his front office staff were looking for more left-handed hitting to increase run production. Few teams win without balance, and the Cubs have been vulnerable to lefty/righty matchups for years against the best pitchers in baseball.

In late 2003, Hendry received August help when the Cubs acquired Kenny Lofton and Randall Simon from the Pirates. Both left-handed bats helped that team come close to a trip to the World Series. The 2008 Cubs offense led the National League in runs scored with 855 on its way to a division title, but hat right-handed dominant hitting squad was completely shut down by the Dodgers' right-handed pitchers in a three-game sweep in the NLDS.

Fast forward to the present, and it appears the Cubs finally have the hitting balance they need to compete and win. Games like the Sunday's two-out ninth-inning comeback victory against the Rockies could be more prevalent with this season's hitting balance.

Can one game turn a team's season direction around?

"That is the type of stuff that gets teams going," said Dexter Fowler, who hit the game-winning two-run homer Sunday. "That can get things going, especially coming back home. We are at home for a bit, and hopefully we can take the momentum back."

The matchup of the left-handed Fowler and right-handed Colorado closer LaTroy Hawkins paid huge dividends for the Cubs on Sunday. That percentage advantage was mostly unavailable for recent Chicago teams. Again, much of that was due to the lack of good left-handed hitters at the end of a game.

The Cubs hadn't had a come from behind for a ninth-inning road win via the home run since September 2009.

Manager Joe Maddon likes the versatile roster that president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have put together for him in his first season at the helm of the Cubs.

"We do (have balance)," Maddon said Monday. "You saw what I was able to do with the lineup yesterday. I put (Anthony) Rizzo second, so we were able to go right-left all the way through. That was especially helpful for me with a short bench. (Tommy La Stella and Mike Olt were nursing injuries). It really doesn't let a pitcher get into a groove to either side of the plate."

That versatility may help Maddon infuse some much-needed confidence into a group of new Cubs players working against the 106-year world championship drought.

The Cubs haven't been two games over .500 in the win loss column since September of 2009. Looking from another perspective, the Cubs have never been above .500 for the entire time the Ricketts family has owned the franchise except for a 2-1 start in 2013.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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