Game Forty-Three – Cubs 7 White Sox 4
The Cubs took advantage of an extra out in the 8th and came from 2 runs down to beat the Sox on Sunday afternoon at the Cell, 7 to 4 to salvage the last game of the series. Carlos Zambrano pitched a very good game and only allowed 4 hits, unfortunately 3 of them were home runs.
The offense came around against Jose Contreras, but other than two home runs by Aramis Ramirez could not plate any runs until the 8th inning. The Cubs scored 4 runs in the 8th highlighted by a Michael Barrett triple and a 2-run homer by Jacque Jones all after a missed double play off the bat of Todd Walker. The Cubs took advantage of the extra out and made the White Sox pay….with a loss. The Cubs played a solid game and had a great performance by Zambrano, who earned his 3rd victory in a row. Could this be the start of something? Carlos Zambrano had another very impressive outing against arguably the best lineup he has faced all season and possibly the best in baseball. Zambrano only allowed 4 hits, all were for extra bases….3 home runs and a double by Rob Mackowiak in the 7th. Zambrano threw 113 pitches, gave up 4 runs on 4 hits, walked 3, hit Tadahito Iguchi and struck out 9.
Zambrano was in control the entire game and looked very sharp….he only made 4 mistakes on the day. The first mistake came in the bottom of the 2nd when he gave up a leadoff home run to Paul Konerko and then set a president for the entire day by retiring the next three batters he faced (Dye, Pierzynski and Crede).
In the bottom of the 4th with 2 outs, A.J. Pierzynski hit a solo shot to center field, Juan Pierre almost made the catch and Zambrano lost it a little. Zambrano said something to Pierzynski has he was rounding 3rd and heading for home and after he crossed the plate he mocked Zambrano. From that point the game got heated again and it appeared that Zambrano made a motion to the White Sox dugout that someone was going to get hit with the ball, the White Sox, including a very animated Jim Thome, lost their usual cool….the umpires gained control of the ballgame and Dusty Baker and the rest of the infield calmed Zambrano down. Zambrano settled back in and struck out Joe Crede, looking, to end the inning.
After a Paul Konerko solo shot in the 6th, A.J. Pierzynski led off the 7th inning and in unusual Zambrano fashion, he stayed away from him, did not throw the ball inside and eventually walked him. Although Zambrano did the right thing, Pierzynski’s actions led to another run when he scored on a double down the left field line by Rob Mackowiak. Zambrano put his team first and it almost cost him the ballgame, but it was very impressive to see.
Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry pitched a scoreless 8th and only allowed one walk while striking out 2. Ryan Dempster came in the 9th and allowed a leadoff single to Pierzynski that was erased on a 6-3 double play off the bat of Joe Crede….a very good play by Ronny Cedeno and Dempster got Mackowiak to hit a soft grounder back to the mound to end the ballgame….Dempster picked up his 8th save of the year and started a new streak.
Jose Contreras threw another dominating performance and should have earned the victory. Neal Cotts was unable to shut the Cubs down in the 8th largely due to the wild throw by Juan Uribe and the missed catch by Paul Konerko. The Cubs actually scored more runs against Contreras than any other team this season. Todd Walker singled in the 1st and other than the two Aramis Ramirez home runs the offense did little against Contreras until the 8th.
Ramirez had 2 solo home runs in the game, both off of Contreras and both to left field….one in the 2nd and one in the 4th. Juan Pierre had a very good at bat against Contreras in the 3rd and ended up singling to center, right past his head, Pierre stole 2nd (his 14th of the year) but neither Ronny Cedeno nor Todd Walker could drive him home. But it was the top of the 8th that the Cubs Faithful will be smiling about for the next 24 hours.
With one out, Juan Pierre recorded an infield single with a swinging bunt, placed it perfectly passed Contreras and it got just under the glove of Joe Crede at 3rd. Ronny Cedeno went with an outside pitch a blooped a single into right field….a nice piece of hitting; Juan Pierre to 3rd. Todd Walker then hit a tailor made double play to 2nd base, Iguchi tossed it to Uribe to get Cedeno and Uribe’s throw was not perfect, but it should have been caught….Konerko did not stretch enough, the ball went to the wall and Pierre scored. Michael Barrett stepped to the plate and delivered a triple to right center past a diving Rob Mackowiak, Todd Walker scored all the way from 1st….game tied at 4. Jacque Jones then took a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall off of Neal Cotts to put the Cubs ahead 6-4.
The Cubs added the 7th run of the game in the 9th after a one out single to center by Matt Murton, Jerry Hairston was hit by Cliff Politte and on a fly out to right field by Juan Pierre (arguably the hardest hit ball he has had all year) Murton moved to 3rd. Ronny Cedeno came through again with a single to right after another good at bat by the ‘rookie’. The Cubs offense pounded out 10 hits but did not record a walk on Sunday. The White Sox did give them several extra outs, including the big one in the 8th that will not show up in the box score….even Hairston being hit by the pitch came back to hurt the Sox.
The Cubs have had games like Sunday all season long; it was about time they were on the opposite end of the mental mistakes. This was probably the best game they have played in weeks and while some of you may be saying the Sox gave the Cubs this one, well think about how many missed opportunities this team has had over the passed 22 games and was not able to capitalize on one of them. This was a good victory and against the White Sox it was great.
Time to go fishing….the Cubs head to Florida for 3 games starting Monday night. A sweep in Florida might put a whole different outlook on the faces of the Northsiders.