The First of the Season

Game Twenty-Two – Cubs 5 Cardinals 3
WP – Jason Marquis (3-1) LP – Anthony Reyes (0-4) Save – Ryan Dempster (4)

wflag.jpg Lou Piniella pulled all the right strings while Jason Marquis beat his former team for the second time in a week. The Cubs won their first game decided by 2 runs or less this season (1-8) and in the process raised their road record to 5-4 on the year. Marquis had a solid outing in his 6 2/3 innings of work and for the first time this season the bullpen held a close lead while the offense tacked on a very important insurance run in the 9th inning.

Anthony Reyes threw a lot of pitches early in the game and in the 4th inning a dropped ball in left field by Chris Duncan, off the bat of Derrek Lee, led to a 4-run inning that featured a pair of 2-run home runs by Aramis Ramirez and Felix Pie. Alfonso Soriano’s two outfield assists highlighted a solid defensive night for the Cubs while Ryan Dempster came into the ballgame with 1-out in the 8th inning and the bases loaded. Dempster responded with a great outing and did not allow a single run in route to his 4th save of the season.

While Jason Marquis has had better outings this season, no one can argue with the outcome. Marquis had trouble with location and found himself in a lot of 3-2 counts on the night. The Cardinals did walk 3 times but their aggressiveness at the plate, especially Preston Wilson, helped Marquis on several occasions. In the 1st inning Marquis walked Chris Duncan with 1-out but retired Albert Pujols on a fly out to center (Felix Pie made it look routine) and Scott Rolen on a ground out to 3rd….Ramirez made a good play on the front end and Lee made a good scoop on the throw. In the 2nd inning, Jim Edmonds led off the inning with a single to right on a 3-2 count and Wilson reached on an error by Ryan Theriot. Marquis and Barrett appeared to have communication problems during the inning….Barrett made a couple of trips to the mound. Adam Kennedy lined out to Theriot and Yadier Molina singled to left and appeared to drive in the first run of the ballgame.

Alfonso Soriano picked the ball up in left with his barehand and fired home to try to get Edmonds at the plate. Edmonds appeared to look behind him for the ball but Soriano’s throw beat him to the plate, that was blocked by Barrett, and he tagged out Edmonds before he could reach back for the home. Reyes grounded out on a soft tapper to 3rd that Lee dug out of the dirt to end the inning. While Soriano’s throw might not have been perfect, it was effective and teams will start to think twice about running on him after Friday night.

In the 3rd the Cardinals were able to breakthrough against Marquis. Eckstein led off with an infield single up the middle and was erased on a 5-4 putout, Duncan safe at 1st. Pujols grounded out to Theriot but Tony LaRussa was playing a little hit and run and Duncan advanced to 2nd on the play. Scott Rolen followed with what appeared to be a sure double off the left field wall but things are not always as they appear. Duncan did score on the single by Rolen but Soriano threw a strike to DeRosa, who made a very good tag, to nail Rolen at 2nd and end the inning….with Jim Edmonds on deck.

Marquis faced the minimum in the 4th and erased a lead off walk to Edmonds on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Adam Kennedy. Marquis followed with his first 1-2-3 inning of the night in the 5th and retired the Cardinals in order in the 6th as well….all groundouts. In the 7th, Edmonds lead off with a 4-pitch walk and Wilson followed with a 2-0 count of his own but Wilson helped Marquis and swung at the 2-0 offering and eventually flied out to left….which was a big turning point of the inning and possibly the game. Wilson should have never swung at the 2-0 pitch. Marquis was able to retire Kennedy on a fly out to left but Yadier Molina took a 2-0 pitch over the left field wall and onto the third deck of the stadium….the first homerun allowed by Marquis this year.

Lou Piniella went to the pen and Marquis left with the Cubs up 4-3. He finished the night giving up 3 runs on 5 hits, walked 3 and did not record a strikeout….he threw 98 pitches, 54 for strikes.

Will Ohman gave up a double to pinch hitter Aaron Miles and Piniella went to the pen again. Michael Wuertz threw one pitch and retired Eckstein on a pop up in foul ground behind home plate. Wuertz took the hill to start the 8th and gave up back-to-back singles to Duncan and Pujols. With the tying run on 3rd and the infield back, Scott Rolen popped out to 3rd and Piniella went to the pen….yet again. Neal Cotts was brought into face Jim Edmonds but LaRussa went to his bench for So Taguchi. Cotts hit Taguchi to load the bases….the ball hit his jersey. Piniella went to the pen, this time for his closer, Ryan Dempster.

In a very un-Cub like move, Piniella brought Dempster into the game in the 8th inning, the bases loaded and just 1 out. Preston Wilson helped the Cubs again, ended up striking out and then breaking his bat….it was the first strikeout on the night for Cubs’ pitchers. Adam Kennedy followed with a grounder to short and Izturis fired the ball to DeRosa who tagged the bag just ahead of a hustling Taguchi. In the 9th, Molina led off the inning with a single off the heal Izturis’ glove. Scott Spiezio pinch hit for Randy Flores and on a 3-2 count hit what looked to be a game tying homer to right….but the ball went foul and he struck out looking at a very good pitch by Dempster. Eckstein followed with a 4-6 force out and with Eckstein at 2nd, Chris Duncan flied out to Soriano to end the game.

Anthony Reyes looked unhittable early and other than walks to Matt Murton and Mark DeRosa in the 2nd, the Cubs offense had no answers for Reyes. The Cubs sent just two over the minimum when Derrek Lee led off the 4th inning. Lee put a charge into a ball and hit it to left, for whatever reason Chris Duncan felt he had to dive for the ball and when he hit the ground the ball popped out of his glove. Lee ended up at 2nd with a double….the first hit of the night for the Cubs. Aramis Ramirez followed with his 5th home run to left. The Cubs hit the ball very hard all inning against Reyes, even the outs. Barrett flied out to deep left center and Murton hit a sharp ground out to short. With 2 outs DeRosa hit a hustle double to right. Felix Pie followed with his first career home run over the right center field wall.

Reyes settled down and retired the last seven batters he faced but left the game in the 6th. Soriano led off the 8th with a single to right (Soriano has an 8-game hitting streak) but Theriot was unable to bunt him to 2nd. Lee struck out swinging on a 3-2 count but Soriano stole 2nd and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Molina. Ramirez walked on 4-pitches and Barrett flied out to right to end the inning. Matt Murton led off the 9th with a double to left and advanced to 3rd on a ground out to 2nd by Mark DeRosa….Murton advanced to 3rd on a good, fundamental at bat by DeRosa. Cesar Izturis, who entered the game as a part of double switch in the 8th inning, stepped to the plate with 2 outs. Izturis delivered with a big 2-out single to left that scored Murton. Five of the seven hits for the Cubs on the night went for extra bases (3 doubles, 2 home runs).

The Cubs won back-to-back games for the second time this season and it was a well managed with solid contributions from just about every player on the roster.

Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face Adam Wainwright on Saturday afternoon…is it May yet?

Quote of the Day

"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run." - Babe Ruth