Game Sixty-One – Cubs 4 Reds 2
The Cubs relied on a good outing from Carlos Zambrano and one swing of Michael Barrett’s bat to beat the Reds in a very close game on Saturday night in the rain. Zambrano was not particularly sharp but he was effective and a couple of times seemed to be on the verge of losing his composure. Zambrano only allowed 2 hits through the first 7 innings but his strike to ball ratio was somewhat alarming….of the 126 pitches he threw only 69 were for strikes. Zambrano was very efficient in the first 3 innings and kept the Reds off of the base paths.
The Cubs continued their struggles against lefties but they loaded the bases in the 7th, thanks to a very patient Todd Walker who took some very close pitches from my vantage point and with one swing of the bat Michael Barrett drove in all 4 runs on the night and just enough for the Cubs to win two nights in a row and guarantee a .500 road trip….a big step forward from where the team was a few weeks back. The Cubbie Blue outweighed the red on a rainy night down by the river. Carlos Zambrano did walk 6 on the night but the lack of hits by the Reds was the key to his success. After a two out double in the 1st inning by Ken Griffey, Zambrano did not allow another hit until the 7th inning….it was a 2-out triple by Quinton McCracken but Zambrano got Brandon Phillips to fly out to right to end the inning after a walk to Felipe Lopez put runners on first and third. The Reds scored the first run off of Zambrano in the 8th when Griffey led off the inning with a solo home run into the first row of the right field bleachers….number 547 of his Hall of Fame career. Zambrano then gave up a 2-out single to center, past a diving Todd Walker, off the bat of Scott Hatteberg to chase Zambrano from the game. His line on the night was 1 run on 4 hits, 6 walks and 4 strikeouts. Bobby Howry came in and walked Austin Kearns after getting ahead in the count 0-2, threw a wild pitch to put runners on 2nd and 3rd before striking out David Ross to end the inning.
Ryan Dempster did record his 11th save of the season but like Friday night, and so many other times this season, he had his struggles. At one point Dempster had thrown 12 pitches….7 balls and 5 strikes. Dempster has to throw strikes and not give opponents those extra base runners, he has to make them earn it and trust his defense to make a play. After recording the first out of the inning Dempster gave up a double to Felipe Lopez and he scored on a single to left by Brandon Phillips. Dempster then got Griffey to fly out on the first pitch to center and on the second pitch he got Rich Aurilia to fly out to left to end the game. Why did Griffey and Aurilia not make Dempster throw more pitches? Dempster threw 17 pitches in the 9th and 10 were for strikes.
The Cubs’ offense struggled against Brandon Claussen and only managed 5 hits in 6 2/3 innings. Claussen loaded the bases in the 7th and left with the game on the line and 2-outs. Esteban Yan came in and on a 1-0 pitch Michael Barrett hit a grand slam into the stands in left field filled with chanting Cubs’ fans….the stadium exploded and Barrett rounded the bases. Neifi Perez singled to left with 1 out to start the inning, Zambrano sacrificed him to 2nd and Juan Pierre reached on an infield singled to Phillips. Phillips made the stop but could not get Pierre at 1st, Phillips’ throw was high and pulled Hatteberg off the bag. Todd Walker had a great at bat and took some very close pitches and eventually walked to load the bases then Barrett hit the slam. For the second night in a row Pierre’s speed and the inability of the Reds’ defense to make a play on him at 1st kept the inning alive and gave the Cubs a chance to win the ball game.
The Cubs loaded the bases after the Grand Slam but Jacque Jones struck out with the bases loaded the first of two times on the night. Jones had a rough night and was 0-5 with 2 strikeouts and 9 left on base. The Cubs did walk 6 times on Saturday but could not manufacture those runs and left 12 on base. They were 2-7 with RISP and 2-5 with RISP and 2 outs. Todd Walker and Jacque Jones were the only position players not to get a hit but it was Walker’s base on balls that was possibly the difference in the game.
The Cubs played a good game and Zambrano pitched good enough to win his 1st game of the year against the Reds….on a night when he was not getting the calls he wanted. Zambrano kept Dusty from having to go deep into his pen and this could pay huge dividends on Sunday when the Cubs go for the series win against Eric Milton. If Carlos Marmol could do to the Reds what unfamiliar faces have done to the Cubs this season they could leave the Queen City with a 6-4 road trip and their third series win out of the last four.
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