Game One Hundred Nineteen – Cubs 8 Astros 6 – 18 innings
What a game, the longest of the season for the Cubs and Matt Murton was the difference in the game. Murton tied the game with a home run in the 9th and won it in the 18th on a 2-out bases loaded single to right, he did not start the game. Rich Hill picked up the win in relief, the 3rd of his career. This game had it all….four hit batsmen, three run downs, a monster home run to center, a game tying home run off of Brad Lidge in the 9th, Carlos Zambrano pinch hit in the 14th, Carlos Marmol pinch hit in the 17th, an 18 inning marathon and a rookie out dueling the future Hall of Famer. Juan Mateo was very impressive on the mound and gained some respect from his teammates as well. Mateo, in only his 2nd career start, did what Cubs pitchers have not done with any consistency this season….he threw strikes. He threw 1st pitch strikes to 10 of the first 13 batters on the night and was ahead of most of the Astros he faced. Mateo walked only 1 and of his first 37 pitches, 27 were for strikes.
Aramis Ramirez led off the 18th with a double, Jacque Jones singled and with 2-outs the Astros intentionally walked Michael Barrett to get to Matt Murton. Murton made ’em pay and came threw with a single to right to score the go ahead runs. The Cubs pitching was very impressive, with a couple of exceptions. The game featured 4 rookies and 12 consecutive scoreless innings out of the bullpen. It was a very good game, but boy was it a long one.
Juan Mateo made his case to stay in the starting rotation with the 5 innings he threw on Tuesday night. He showed very good composure and pitched around a leadoff double and two singles. He held the anemic Astros’ offense to just 2 runs and Henry Blanco barely had to move his glove all night. But oddly enough the biggest pitch he threw was the one that hit Roger Clemens. Clemens is Baseball Royalty and many have faced him but few have gotten the best of him and when Mateo hit Clemens….that is exactly what happened. Mateo should have recorded his 2nd career victory but unfortunately Will Ohman and Michael Wuertz could not get the job done.
The four rookies that pitched on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning were very effective. David Aardsma pitched a perfect 2/3 of an inning and struck out 1 but Angel Guzman showed enormous strides from last Saturday; he actually threw more innings in relief than he pitched on Saturday. He threw 3 innings of shutout ball, showed a very good change up and allowed 2 hits, walked 1 and struck out 3. He pitched around 2 on and no out in the 12th and most importantly he threw strikes….54 pitches, 36 for strikes. On the night the 3 combined for 8 2/3 innings, 2 earned runs, 6 hits, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. Rich Hill pitched the 17th and 18th and gave up a hit and struck out 3….he looked very sharp and the Astros looked very tired.
Ryan Dempster threw 52 pitches in 3 innings and held the Astros to just 2 hits, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts. Dempster looked very good on the mound as well.
The Cubs got to Clemens early. Juan Pierre tripled to start the game and scored on a single by Cesar Izturis. Ronny Cedeno led off the 2nd with a home run (5th) into the Crawford Boxes in left but it was the 2-out rally in the 5th that gave the Cubs a short-lived lead. Angel Pagan walked with 2 outs off of Clemens, Aramis Ramirez singled and both scored on Jacque Jones’ mammoth home run to straight away center field. Jones crushed the ball for his 2nd career home run off of Clemens….it went 445 wonderful feet.
The Cubs were quiet until the 9th and it looked like Clemens was going to pickup an unearned victory. Matt Murton led off the inning and hit a line drive home run (8th) into the Crawford Boxes off of Brad Lidge. The Cubs recorded only 5 hits in extra innings and had runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs in the 18th. Matt Murton singled to right with 2 outs and the bases loaded to drive in 2 to win the game.
Scott Eyre left the game in the 8th with what appeared to be a leg injury. Aubrey Huff grounded to Mabry, Eyre went to cover the bag and immediately went down in pain….he grabbed the back of his leg after a few steps. He left the field on his own power and was diagnosed with a strained right hamstring.
Juan Pierre did extend his hit streak to 8 games; the Cubs pounded out 16 hits, left 11 on base and recorded only 3 walks in 18 innings. The Astros pounded out 16 hits, recorded 6 walks and left 15 on base. Both benches and bullpens were emptied and Brad Ausmus caught all 18 innings….game time was 5 hours and 36 minutes.
This was a good game for the Cubs to win and a very impressive one from a pitching standpoint.
Andy Pettitte is scheduled to go for the Astros on Wednesday (in about 12 hours) and the Cubs have not announced who will start. The I-Cubs are in Round Rock facing the Express and Wade Miller is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday for Iowa.