Game One Hundred Ten – Cubs 7 Pirates 5
Mark Prior won his first game of the season and the Cubs finally beat Zach Duke….that is the two most important parts of Saturday afternoon’s win at Wrigley. In between there was some good baseball being played on both sides but a questionable managerial move in the 6th helped keep the Cubs in the game.
Mark Prior was very good through the first 5 innings he pitched, arguably his best outing of the season. Now granted the no-hit ball against the Mets was very good but the walks and lack of command from that outing hung a cloud over what success he did have on the mound. On Saturday, Prior was sharp, had good command and located his breaking ball….until the 6th inning. The preverbal wheels came off and he had to leave before recording the last out in the inning, all in all a very positive outing and a good win for the Cubs against the hottest team in the Central Division since the All-Star break. Prior came out and shut the Pirates down in order in the 1st, including striking out the first two batters he faced. When he took the mound in the 2nd, the offense had staked him an impressive 4-run lead. Prior seemed to settle in and despite giving up a run, it was unearned, Prior seemed to be a lot more confident and in control than in previous starts this season and beyond. Prior did give up 5 hits on the day but kept the Pirates off balance until the 6th inning. Prior gave up his first walk in the 6th with 1-out to Jason Bay and proceeded to walk Jose Castillo on some very good pitches. Prior then hit Jose Bautista on the first pitch to load the bases. He was left in to face Ronny Paulino, who had homered the inning before, Prior walked Paulino on 4 pitches to plate a run and Dusty went to the pen for Will Ohman. Zach Duke was allowed to hit for himself with the bases loaded and the score 4-3….Ohman struck out Duke looking to end the inning. Why did Jim Tracy leave Duke in to hit for himself? The Pirates kept scratching back but every time they added a run, so did the Cubs. Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry each allowed a run but Ryan Dempster pitched a perfect 9th, recorded out number 27 and picked up save number 21.
This was an outing that Prior must build on and again it was arguably better from a command and result standpoint than his outing against the Mets. Prior threw 103 pitches, 64 for strikes, but the main thing to take away from Saturday was how sharp he was in the first 5 innings, he was more Prior like with striking out 5 in the first 5 innings and while the Cubs are planning for the future, they need to see more outings like the one on Saturday in order to ensure his future with this team and organization.
The Cubs have never hit well against Zach Duke and to quote the ever-entertaining Ron Santo, “We’re due!!” The Cubs jumped out to an early 4-run lead off of Duke. Pierre led off the game with a single, stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Ronny Paulino, the Pirate catcher. Izturis grounded out to 2nd to score Pierre and that was only the 2nd run of the season, in three appearances, that they had scored off of Duke and the first of the series. With 2 outs, Aramis Ramirez doubled and Phil Nevin walked….remember 2 outs….Angel Pagan (who continues to be very impressive) singled to center, Ramirez scored and Nevin held at 2nd. Matt Murton (who is on fire at the plate) singled to center to score Nevin, Pagan to 3rd and then Ronny Cedeno singled to center, again, to score Pagan. Mark Prior stepped to the plate, followed the crowd and singled to center as well but Ronny Cedeno was thrown out at 3rd, the out was made before Murton crossed the plate, inning over and the run did not count. Hopefully both youngsters will learn from those two very costly base running mistakes….gotta hustle at all times.
Duke settled in and the Cubs went quietly in every inning until the 6th. Duke who had been allowed to hit for himself gave up a 1-out home run to Matt Murton (6). Duke left in the 7th and Michael Barrett singled home Juan Pierre who had walked to start the inning and was sacrificed to 2nd by Izturis. Angel Pagan added his 4th home run of the season in the 8th to cap the scoring for the day.
Ronny Cedeno is having a lot of trouble learning how to play 2nd but the Cubs must figure out where he fits in for next year and beyond. If Cedeno can learn the position, he and Izturis could be very good together….Izturis made a very good play in the ballgame. But one thing is for certain the revolving door at 2nd base for the Cubs has to be put to an end. With Cedeno’s start on Friday the Cubs have started 7 different players at 2nd this season….good up the middle defense helps wins ballgames and if it is constantly changing how is it going to improve?
Rich Hill takes the mound on Sunday afternoon for the series and home stand finale. This is the first winning home stand since April and a series win would be a great way to go into a day off before heading to Milwaukee on Tuesday. Rich Hill showed what he is capable off, now let’s see if he can repeat his performance.