With Wednesday afternoon's resounding 11-4 win over the Astros, the Cubs completed the 20-games-in-20-days gauntlet that awaited them following the All-Star break.
Here is how Lou Piniella's team fared in that stretch, which commenced with a Friday night game in Houston back on July 18th:
Runs Scored: 108 (5.4/game)
Runs Allowed: 71 (3.6/game)
Some impressive individual numbers...
Alfonso Soriano, who didn't even return from the Disabled List until July 23rd and so, only played in 15 of the 20 games, has helped reinvigorate the Cub offense during this span by going 23-for-66 (.348) with 6 HR and 15 RBI. Reed Johnson, who saw extra playing time while Jim Edmonds rested his banged up body, went a scorching 17-for-36 (.472) with 3 HR and 9 RBI.
Newcomer Rich Harden, despite getting cuffed around by the Astros on Tuesday, posted some stunning figures in his four starts, like 37 strikeouts against just 6 walks in 24 2/3 IP with a 669 OPS Against. And Harden's fellow former Oakland Athletic, reliever Chad Gaudin, earned 3 of the Cubs' 12 victories in the 20 games, with 16 strikeouts, 3 walks, and a handsome 1.80 ERA over 10 innings.
Finally, the standings facts...
Cubs' position at beginning of 20 games: 1st, +4.5 games over St. Louis; +5 over Milwaukee
Cubs' position at end of 20 games: 1st, +5 over Milwaukee (12-8 in this period), +5.5 over St. Louis (11-9)
Obviously it would have been swell if the Cubs had been able to separate themselves from their two NL Central rivals over these past 20 games. On the other hand, neither team was able to bite into the Cubs' advantage at the All-Star break and there are now 20 fewer games remaining on the teams' regular season slates, which has a lot to do with this piece of arithmetic:
By the reckoning of ESPN and coolstandings.com, the Cubs currently have an 81.4% probability of winning the division and a 94.6% likelihood of making the post-season.