Not Bad….Not Bad At All

Game Sixty-Two – Cubs 9 Reds 3

wflag.jpg The Cubs got everything and more than they could have expected from rookie Carlos Marmol, he threw a gem in his first career Major League start, Neifi Perez had his best game of the season and the Cubs finished the 10-game road trip at 6-4. The Cubs actually beat the Reds at their own game and although both teams hit three home runs it was the 2-out walk by Ronny Cedeno in the 7th that was the difference in the ball game.

Marmol was unbelievable and kept the Reds guessing all afternoon long. Marmol mixed in his changeup at the right times and the Reds could not string together any offense to get to the 23-year old rookie. Marmol was in command and really made only one mistake, he showed composure after allowing a home run to David Ross and did not allow two lead off walks to come around and score. The Cubs won their third game in a row to tie a season long high and made major improvements over their last two road trips when they were 1-8 and 2-5 respectively….what a way to head into a day off.

Carlos Marmol was just short of brilliant, he threw with command and confidence but most importantly he threw strikes the one missing component from the other 3 out of 4 rookie pitchers that have started games for the Cubs this season. Marmol only allowed 1 run on 2 hits and kept the Reds from taking advantage of two lead off walks. He allowed a 2nd inning double to Austin Kearns that was just short of a home run, but retired Scott Hatteberg and Brandon Phillips to end the inning. In the 3rd inning he allowed his first free pass of his Major League career, a lead off walk to David Ross. But after a sacrifice bunt by Eric Milton, Marmol retired Ryan Freel and struck out Felipe Lopez to end the inning….Ross did not advance past 2nd base.

In the 5th inning his composure was tested again. With 1 out Marmol gave up a home run to right center off the bat of David Ross and then the rookie struck out Eric Milton and Ryan Freel to end the inning. How many times have other Cubs pitchers allowed that scenario to change the momentum of the game….the home run cut the Cubs lead to 2-1. Marmol walked 3 on the afternoon and struck out 7 on 99 pitches….65 for strikes, whatever the coaching staff is doing in West Tenn should be brought to Chicago as soon as possible.

The bullpen gave up the other 2 runs on the afternoon and for the third game in a row looked very shaky at best. David Aardsma started off the 7th and with 1-out gave up a home run to Brandon Phillips and proceeded to walk David Ross. With 2 outs Aardsma hit Ryan Freel and Dusty went to the pen to get Will Ohman, he did his job and held the lead to two at 4-2. The Cubs broke the game open in the 8th and Scott Eyre gave up a solo shot to Adam Dunn in the bottom of the inning, his second home run of the series. The Cubs’ bullpen had not allowed a home run in the last 37 2/3 innings prior to the Phillips home run. Roberto Novoa pitched a perfect 9th and struck out Ryan Freel to end the game. Marmol was unbelievable and the bullpen held the Reds’ struggling offense to just 2 runs over the last 3 innings.

The Cubs have had their troubles against lefties this season but have won back-to-back games against southpaws with two very patient performances. Eric Milton retired the first 13 Cubs he faced and it looked like his string of domination over the Cubs was going to continue. Matt Murton broke up the perfect game and no-hitter with 1 out in the 5th. Murton singled to left on a 2-0 pitch, Jacque Jones followed with a single to right and Murton scored the first run of the game on a single to left by Ronny Cedeno. Adam Dunn made his 8th error of the season on the throw to the plate to attempt to get Murton and both Jones and Cedeno advance on the error. Jacque Jones scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Neifi Perez….an unearned run for Milton, a much-needed run for the Cubs.

The Cubs were quiet in the 6th and until 2 outs in the 7th. Ronny Cedeno showed tremendous patience at the plate and took a very big out. Cedeno did not try to do something that was not there he took what Milton gave him and that was a walk….Milton’s first free pass since May the 20th. Neifi Perez then stepped to the plate and took Milton’s first pitch over the left field wall for his first home run of the season. Neifi Perez had a very good day he was 2-3 with 3 RBI’s, a double, a home run and 2 runs scored. Neifi was a big part in the past two wins and for the series he was 3-8 with 3 runs, 3 RBI’s, a double and a home run. I have been very critical of Neifi all season and I am very happy to say he played very well all weekend.

The Cubs put up a 5 spot in the 8th and put the game out of reach. Michael Barrett singled to start the inning ahead of Phil Nevin’s second home run in a Cubs’ uniform. Nevin, like Neifi, has had two good games and should start on Tuesday night against Andy Pettitte at Wrigley. Nevin was 3-10 with a home run, 2 RBI’s and a run scored in the last 2 games of the series. Murton then singled to center ahead of Ronny Cedeno’s second home run of the season to left center field. Neifi Perez then doubled and scored on Juan Pierre’s single to left, it was Pierre’s 6th RBI of the season….something the Cubs must have more of from Juan Pierre.

The Reds had the opportunity to all but end the Cubs’ season. Before Friday night’s game the Cubs were a season low 13 games under .500 and on the verge of a fire sale in June. With these 3 wins the Cubs have life and are now 10 games under .500 and open a very tough 6-game home stand against the Astros and Tigers. The Cubs are currently 26-36, 11 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and have won their third series out of the last four. They are 3 games behind the Brewers, the next hill they must climb and other than the Reds are the only team in the Central Division with a winning record over their last 10 games and since being swept by the Braves (May 26th – May 28th) are 8-5.

While Kerry Wood continues his struggles with injuries, Mark Prior is scheduled to make his last rehab start on Tuesday and is scheduled to start on Saturday in Chicago against the Tigers. Derrek Lee is close to returning by all accounts and like the first eleven days of June the next eleven are equally important. The Cubs are on the verge of salvaging the season and ending it as well….it is up to them to choose which.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon