The Cubs played their final game at Qualcomm Stadium on Thursday, waving goodbye to a ballpark linked to one of the most disastrous weekends in franchise history.
It was on this field, with the Cubs one win away from going to the 1984 World Series, that they lost three straight to San Diego to blow the National League Championship Series in stunning fashion.
While Thursday's 9-3 pounding of the Padres was small consolation to Cubs fans with long memories, it gave the Cubs a three-game sweep and left them 11/2 games behind Houston in the NL Central. Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou and Eric Karros homered as the Cubs have won four straight games and nine of their last 12. The last time they swept a series was in Milwaukee, a four-game sweep May 12-15.
"We haven't had a prolonged run at all this year," Karros said. "Maybe this is our time."
If it is the Cubs' time, it's the starting pitchers who have made it all happen.
Carlos Zambrano stifled the Padres through six innings, holding them to one run on seven hits in six innings while earning his fourth straight victory. Zambrano (10-8) threw 120 pitches, striking out eight and walking three.
Over the last 12 games, Cubs starters have posted a 2.09 earned-run average. Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Zambrano held the Padres to three earned runs in 191/3 innings in the sweep, a combined 1.40 ERA.
"Since the beginning of the season we've had good pitching," Zambrano said. "We're all competitive and we can do more than we did in the first half."
The Cubs led 1-0 in the third when Sosa hit his 26th home run, a two-run blast off Kevin Jarvis (4-4). Alou followed with a solo shot, and the Cubs added three more in the fourth on an RBI single by Kenny Lofton and Ramon Martinez's two-run single. The Cubs' 7-0 lead was built entirely on two-out hits.
"Guys are feeling good about themselves," manager Dusty Baker said.
"We don't take anybody for granted," reliever Mike Remlinger added. "But we also feel like if we go out there with the players we have, we've got a good chance to win every night if we play good baseball."
The Cubs head into Los Angeles for a three-game series that will mark a homecoming for Karros, who spent his entire 11-year career as a Dodger before being traded to the Cubs in the Todd Hundley deal.
"On teams I've been on, when you go out and expect to win, you go out there with a swagger, and you go out there with confidence," Karros said. "We've been playing well and we're expecting good things to happen."