Dominating the Hill

Game Four – Cubs 9 Brewers 3
WP – Rich Hill (1-0) LP – Dave Bush (0-1)

wflag.jpg Lou Piniella received a quality start for the third consecutive game. Rich Hill threw 7 brilliant innings against the Brewers’ high powered offense and allowed just 1 run on 1 hit….a home run by Corey Hart. Counting spring training Hill has yet to walk a batter in 2007 and he struck out 6 on the night on just 78 pitches, 58 for strikes. Hill had a perfect game going until the Hart homer in the 6th.

The Cubs offense broke out of their early slump and scored almost as many runs in the first inning, 6, as they had the entire 3-game series against the Reds, 7. Every starter recorded at least one hit and with the exception of Cesar Izturis, scored at least one run. Mark DeRosa hit his second long ball in as many days and Ronny Cedeno had a pinch-hit round tripper of his own. The Cubs hustled and were very smart on the bases. What a difference a day makes….

Rich Hill was one mistake short of perfection. And when he faced a little adversity in the 6th, he collected himself and retired the top of the Brewers lineup in order. The Cubs offense gave Hill all he would need in the 1st inning and he even got an at bat before he threw his first pitch. After the big 1st inning for the Cubs, Hill shut down the Brewers in order and made a statement right from the start. Of the first 6 batters he faced, he struck out 3 and his defense helped him out when needed, especially Alfonso Soriano in center.

Soriano made several fine defensive plays and received his first real challenges of the year. Bill Hall badly misplayed a ball in the Cubs 1st that led to the big inning, so playing center field does have its challenges. While Soriano will likely have games similar to Hall’s performance, on Friday night he was more than solid in the field.

Hill cruised along until the 6th inning. Corey Hart led off with a home run to left center. Tony Graffanino followed with a grounder to Ramirez, who fumbled the ball but recovered in time to make a strong throw to Lee at 1st. Charlie Reliford called Graffanino safe, saying Lee was pulled off the bag by Aramis’ throw. The replay showed a very bad call, Lee’s foot was on the bag. Hill was able to get Geoff Jenkins to ground back to him but his throw to 2nd was high and ended up in center field….everyone was safe, runners at 1st and 2nd with no outs. Hill recovered and really showed his maturity. He retired Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy on pop outs to the right side of the infield and struck out Prince Fielder swinging on 3 pitches, on his last pitch he dropped down to a side arm delivery to retire Fielder and left the field pumping his fist.

Angel Guzman pitched the last 2 innings of the game and gave up 2 runs on 3 hits. Guzman was very good out of the pen but could not retire Kevin Mench with Fielder on 3rd and Hall on 2nd. Mench singled to left to account for the other 2 runs on the day for the Brewers.

Last season the futures of Rich Hill and Angel Guzman in a Cubs’ uniform seemed very uncertain but if they can continue to pitch the way the did on Friday night, those early struggles will soon be forgotten.

Alfonso Soriano got the Cubs offense going with a leadoff double to left. Dave Bush followed the double by hitting Jacque Jones. Derrek Lee hit into a force out but Aramis Ramirez followed with a single to left to plate Soriano. Cliff Floyd doubled to center over the head of Bill Hall. Floyd hit the ball extremely hard but Hall badly misplayed it. Lee scored and Ramirez scored all the way from 1st….thanks to an errant throw by Hall. When the ball went home, Floyd advanced to 3rd. Ramirez really hustled on the play and Floyd’s smart base running landed him at 3rd. Michael Barrett followed with his first hit of the season with a single to left to score Floyd. Mark DeRosa stepped to the plate and took a 3-1 pitch over the left center field wall for his 2nd home run of the season. Cesar Izturis followed with a double but was stranded at 2nd. The Cubs scored 6 runs on 6 hits and sent 10 the plate in the 1st inning.

Dave Bush settled down, threw 5 scoreless innings and retired the last 6 batters he faced but the Cubs were able to get on board again in 7th off of Claudio Vargas. Jones lead off the 7th with a seeing-eye-single to right and with 1-out advanced to 2nd on a broken bat flare to center by Ramirez. Bill Hall would have forced Jones at 2nd with an accurate throw. Floyd followed with his second double of the game. Jones scored but a good relay by the Brewers cut Ramirez down at the plate. Piniella went to his bench for Ryan Theriot to pinch run for Floyd. Barrett followed with his second hit of the day, a single to right that scored Theriot who made a very good slide at the plate to avoid the tag.

Ronny Cedeno added a pinch-hit solo homer in the 8th.

While one loss does not make a season, neither does an impressive win. The Cubs evened their record on the young season but the next two days will be a good test to see exactly how the Cubs stack up against two of the better pitchers in the league, especially with the history they have against Ben Sheets and Chris Capuano.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver