Game Forty-Nine – Cubs 12 Braves 13 – 11 innings
As soon as it was announced the wind was blowing out on Sunday afternoon at the Friendly Confines the Cubs Faithful knew the writing was on the wall for a long afternoon, especially with the fourth rookie of the season scheduled to start the game for the Cubs. Jae Kuk Ryu could not make it out of the 2nd inning and was only able to record 4 outs in his first Major League start. Ryu gave up 4 of the first 8 home runs the Braves hit off of Cubs pitching, a new club record. The Braves finished the day with 13 runs on 18 hits, but Cubs pitching allowed only 4 walks and struck out 18 Braves on the day.
The three game series drew 124,089 to Wrigley over the weekend and Sunday’s 41,698 was the largest crowd of the season. The offense could not play any better than it did on Sunday and scored 4 in the 9th to send it into extra innings. The Cubs had the winning run on 3rd but Michael Barrett grounded out to end the inning. While the Braves set a new franchise record for home runs hit in a single game, the Cubs did not hit a single round tripper and plated all 12 runs on 16 base hits, but the two unearned runs, especially the one in the 11th, cost the Cubs the game. Marcus Giles was key to the Braves sweep over the Cubs as he was responsible for the game winning runs in all 3 games. Giles scored the winning run on Friday, had the 2-run double that was the difference in the game on Saturday and had the game winning RBI in the 11th inning on Sunday. As mentioned the Braves hit 8 home runs off of Cubs pitching: one from Marcus Giles, two from Edgar Renteria, one from Andruw Jones that landed on Waveland Ave., two from Adam LaRoche, one from Ryan Langerhans and one from Brayan Pena….but 7 of them were solo shots and the lack of walks on Sunday benefited the Cubs although they went the other way and left to many “batting practice” balls out over the plate. Of the other 10 hits by the Braves, three of them were doubles….one by John Smoltz and two by Jeff Francoeur.
After a valiant comeback in the 9th, the Cubs could not score in the 10th and the game was decided in the top of the 11th. Scott Eyre got Ryan Langerhans to pop up to 3rd, Aramis Ramirez could not find the ball and it was evident that he was having trouble….he turned to Neifi and asked for help. The ball actually hit Ramirez in the top of the head, ended up in foul territory and Langerhans, who was hustling the entire way, made it to 2nd with ease and even had thoughts of going to 3rd….a leadoff 2-base error, only the second error of the season by Aramis Ramirez. Eyre then got Brayan Pena to ground out to 2nd, Pena did his job and advanced the winning run to 3rd, with only 1 out. Eyre then induced Wilson Betemit to ground right back to him just to the 3rd base side of the mound, Eyre looked Langerhans back and recorded the 2nd out of the inning. Marcus Giles stepped to the plate and hit a line drive to right, that was almost caught by Jerry Hairston, Langerhans trotted in from 3rd with the game-winning run.
The offense had arguably their best game of the season, usually one would expect the Cubs to score a lot of runs on a day with the wind blowing out, but this year’s version of the Cubs is unlike one the Faithful has ever seen….they are now 2-4 with the wind blowing out. The Cubs do not have the usual home run hitters and on Sunday, the day Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth on the All-Time Home Run list, the Cubs scored all 12 runs on 16 hits without the benefit of the long ball, it was very impressive to watch….especially the 9th inning, a comeback that just fell short.
The Cubs were down 12-8 and Todd Walker led off the inning with a single to left. Aramis Ramirez hit his second of three warning track fly outs of the day to centerfield. Jacque Jones singled to right and Ronny Cedeno hit a huge pinch hit double to left that scored Todd Walker. Neifi Perez then tripled to right, the ball hit the top of the basket and fell back into play, Jones and Cedeno scored to cut the lead to 1. Freddie Bynum then hit a soft grounder back to the pitcher, Chris Reitsma, he decided to go home to get Neifi, he was late and Neifi scored to tie the game. Juan Pierre flied out to left for the second out of the inning, Tony Womack singled to right, he was 4-6 on the day with an RBI and a run scored….the winning run, Freddie Bynum was on 3rd. Barrett then grounded out to Marcus Giles to end the inning. The Braves bullpen retired the next six Cubs to go to the plate to end the ballgame.
For the second time in the series, the Cubs offense gave one of the best pitchers in the National League his worst line of the season. The Cubs scored 8 runs, 6 earned, on 10 hits in 6 innings off of John Smoltz, including 4 in the 1st inning. The 1-2 punch of Juan Pierre and Tony Womack was 6 for 12 with 3 runs scored, 2 RBI’s and only 2 left on base. Juan Pierre hit a double and knocked his third run of the year; Tony Womack is now 5 for 7 as a Cub in the last 2 games. Neifi Perez had his best game of the year going 2 for 6 with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored, including the HUGE triple in the 9th. Jacque Jones added 2 more hits and is creeping toward .300, Todd Walker did hit into 2 double plays that really hurt the Cubs and the bench was 2 for 7 on Sunday….a marked improvement. On a side note, a one point in the 11th inning the Cubs had all 5 second basemen in the game at the same time….shortstop, first base, right field and left field.
Despite the awful first start of Jae Kuk Ryu’s career, Glendon Rusch’s 9 strikeouts and the fact Cubs’ pitching gave up 8 home runs, their no quit attitude and play was refreshing to see. The offense has been hitting as of late, maybe….just maybe Sunday’s performance will remind them how to get those runs in instead of leaving them on base and losing. For the first time in a month it was obvious to see the Cubs were just a few plays away from sweeping the Braves, instead of being swept….except for a few plays the Cubs actually outplayed the Braves. Could this be the start of something? Hopefully they can win a couple and then the Cubs Faithful can discuss it.
The Reds start a 3 game series on Monday to close out the homestand. Kerry Wood is scheduled to make his 3rd start of the season.