Another good day for Kerry Wood. What a surprise.
Wood (6-2) is getting to be so solid, so consistent -- so un-Cublike -- that he's almost got Chicago fans lulled into complacency. The rookie phenom struck out nine batters and gave up five hits in eight innings Wednesday as the Cubs beat the Florida Marlins 5-1. It was Wood's fifth straight win.
"I wouldn't call it routine. I go out and try to battle as long as I can," Wood said. "It's the team's job to score runs. It's my job to keep the other team from scoring."
The rest of the Cubs did their job, too. Sammy Sosa hit a two-run home run and Scott Servais hit a two-run double.
The victory puts the Cubs (34-24) 10 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 1989 season at 93-69 - the last time Chicago made the playoffs. It also gives the Cubs back-to-back series sweeps for the first time since 1989.
After his record-tying 20-strikeout game last month, Cubs fans have come to expect great things every time Wood pitches. So far, he hasn't disappointed. He struck out his first batter, and didn't give up a hit until Craig Counsell's double in the third inning.
Except for the second, he struck out at least one batter each inning, much to the delight of the fans in the center field bleachers who were marking each strikeout with neon orange-and-yellow K signs.
"They came out swinging the bats," Wood said. "If they want to swing at the first or second, I'll let them."
Wood did run into some trouble in the eighth. After walking John Cangelosi and striking out Todd Dunwoody, he gave up a double to Edgar Renteria. He struck out Mark Kotsay, but then walked Todd Zeile to load the bases.
With the crowd of 20,942 on its feet, chanting "Ker-ry, Ker-ry," Wood got out of the jam when Cliff Floyd hit into a fielder's choice.
"He's for real," Marlins manager Jim Leyland said of Wood. "Good stuff. Good competitor."
And while Wood was shutting down the Marlin batters, his teammates were beating up on Marlins starter Livan Hernandez. After Jeff Blauser reached first on an error by Renteria and Jose Hernandez singled to start the fourth, Servais drove them both home with a hard double to left.
In the fifth, Mickey Morandini led off with a single, and then Sosa redeemed an earlier fielding blunder with his 16th home run of the year. It was Sosa's seventh homer in six games.
"I messed up on Sammy's pitch," said Hernandez (3-4), who gave up 10 hits and five runs -- four earned -- in seven innings. "It was a slider that didn't break."
Mark Grace then singled, and moved to third on Blauser's hard line-drive single that skipped through second base umpire Bruce Froemming's legs. He scored on a wild pitch by Hernandez.
"Livan only had one bad inning," Leyand said. "Sammy's dangerous because he swings. He's been more patient this year than I've ever seen."
Florida's only run came in the fourth. After Kotsay doubled, Zeile hit what looked like an easy out to right field. The wind dropped the ball just short of where Sosa expected, and it rolled back to the fence, allowing Kotsay to score.
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