Game Seven – Cubs 3 Astros 5
WP – Chad Qualls (1-1) LP – Bobby Howry (0-2) Save – Dan Wheeler (1)

Ted Lilly gave Lou Piniella another solid start but the offense could not string together any hits against 40-year old Woody Williams. The questionable defense in the Cubs’ outfield led to a couple of runs along with two wild pitches and another bad outing by Bobby Howry.

Craig Biggio led the Astros with two of their six doubles but after staking the Astros to a 3-run lead, the Cubs battled back with 2 in the 6th and eventually tied it in the 7th, thanks to some heads-up base running by Alfonso Soriano and an error by Craig Biggio. But a lead off double by Morgan Ensberg in the 8th and a 2-run homer by Adam Everett off of Bobby Howry was the difference in the game.

Before the game, Phil Garner announced the demotion of Brad Lidge from closer to middle relief and the promotion of Dan Wheeler to closer. Garner’s move paid dividends in the 9th when Wheeler sat the Cubs down in order to end the game. A good move by a proven winner….

Craig Biggio led off the game with a double down the left field line off of Ted Lilly. After two bunt attempts, Chris Burke doubled off the left center field wall on a 2-2 counts. Lilly retired Lance Berkman on a come backer to the mound….Burke advanced to 3rd. Lilly retired Carlos Lee on a grounder to 3rd, Burke was unable to score and Morgan Ensberg struck out swinging to end the inning. Lilly retired the next 10 in a row before Carlos Lee doubled in the 4th.

With 1-out in the 4th, Carlos Lee took advantage of Jacque Jones’ arm in right and stretched a single into a double. Lee forced Jones to make a play and the throw was off the mark (this maybe only the beginning of teams running on Jones until he proves he can make a throw on a consistent basis). Ensberg followed with a single up the middle, past Ted Lilly to score Lee. With 2 outs, Lilly walked Adam Everett and hit Humberto Quintero to load the bases but was able to retire Woody Williams on a pop out to Michael Barrett in foul ground near the backstop.

In the 5th, Biggio doubled again to lead off the inning, Burke bunted him to 3rd and Lance Berkman hit a sacrifice fly to right center to score Biggio. Lilly retired the Astros in order in the 6th. In the 7th after a wild pitch on a strikeout of Quintero (Barrett lost the ball and Lilly’s throw to 1st pulled Lee off the bag) he gave up a single to Woody Williams….Piniella went to the pen for Michael Wuertz. Biggio sacrificed the runners to 2nd and 3rd and Wuertz struck out Chris Burke. Berkman was intentionally walked to load the bases, Wuertz was able to induce a ground ball to short off the bat of Carlos Lee to end the inning. Howry gave up 2 doubles and the home run to Everett in the 8th and Ryan Dempster pitched a 1-2-3 9th.

Ted Lilly allowed 3 runs on 6 hits, struck out 5 and walked 1 in 6+ innings of work but again, the bullpen was the difference in the game.

Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a dumped single into right center and advanced to 3rd on a bloop single by Derrek Lee. Aramis Ramirez struck out swinging and Cliff Floyd popped out in foul ground to end the inning. The offense was pretty quiet after that until the 6th. Jones singled to left center to lead off the inning and advance to 2nd on a ground out to 3rd by Derrek Lee. Ramirez singled to center to score Jones. With 2 outs, Michael Barrett doubled down the right field line and Ramirez scored from 1st to cut the Astros led to 3-2. In the 7th, Cesar Izturis walked to lead off the inning but was erased on a fielder’s choice to 3rd by Soriano. Soriano stole 2nd and tied the game on a single by Jones and a throwing error by Biggio….Soriano never stopped around 3rd as Biggio tried to make the play at 1st. They could not capitalize on a lead off walk by Aramis Ramirez in the 8th and went down in order in the 9th to end the game.

The home plate umpire, James Hoye, had a very tight strike zone and it did appear Howry had struck out Adam Everett before the home run. There were several calls that did not go Ted Lilly’s way as well but the bottom line is the Astros made the plays and the Cubs did not…at least on Monday. Like Lou said, at least there are no more openers this season.

The Cubs get another shot at the Astros on Tuesday afternoon….Chris Sampson will take the hill against Jason Marquis.

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax