Rebuilding Cubs have no problem getting up for Cardinals rivalry

Rebuilding Cubs have no problem getting up for Cardinals rivalry
July 27, 2014, 2:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

Neil Ramirez blew a high fastball right by Matt Carpenter, pumped his fist and let out a little yell as he walked off the mound with 41,534 fans buzzing at Wrigley Field.

That moment from the eighth inning of Friday's Cubs-Cardinals game was a perfect snapshot of the weekend series that drew almost 120,000 fans in three games.

The Cubs and Cardinals are in two completely different points in their organizational timelines.

The Cardinals are trying to take home another World Series title, while Theo Epstein's Cubs are on their way to another last-place finish and possibly another 100-loss season. Sunday's pitching matchup - Kyle Hendricks vs. Adam Wainwright - is maybe the perfect example of where each franchise is right now.

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But the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is alive and well, despite the gap between the two teams. The late-July series had the feeling of a holiday weekend in Wrigleyville with the streets packed and the Cardinals fans coming out in droves. Fans from both sides have been into the games, cheering and yelling at nearly every pitch.

"It doesn't surprise me," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "I actually rather enjoy it. It's cool. I hope that our organization continues to move forward, that that's what we're going to be hearing for a long time to come.

"You get a few of the followers of the opposition coming in to root for their team and you hear them cheer when their guys do something. I hope over the long haul, as [the young Cubs players] start developing and coming into their own, we will hear a lot of that."

After striking out Carpenter, Ramirez admitted that this is what you live for as a player - coming up big in a key spot against your team's rival. Ramirez, 25, got his first taste of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry at Wrigley Field in just his third big-league appearance, striking out Randal Grichuk and Carpenter on May 3 to help preserve a 3-0 victory.

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This weekend, Hendricks and Arismendy Alcantara are getting their feet wet in the rivalry as the Cubs continue to integrate their young players into the Chicago market.

It may still be a couple years before the Cubs-Cardinals games in late July actually count for something, but as the Cubs creep closer to the sustained success Epstein's front office is seeking, some life has been reinjected into the rivalry.