Nailing Down the Final Out

Game Thirty-Four – Cubs 7 Phillies 11
WP – Antonio Alfonseca (2-1) LP – Bobby Howry (0-3, BS 3) Save – None

After falling behind early, the Cubs rallied for 4 runs in the 7th inning to even the score before rain delayed the game for 1 hour and 4 minutes. When played resumed Jacque Jones hit a 2-out double to left center to give the Cubs what would turn out to be a brief lead. Will Ohman took the mound in the bottom of the inning, retired the first two batters he faced before surrendering a 2-out single to Aaron Rowand that opened the door for a 6-run rally from the Phillies.

Angel Guzman threw pitch for pitch with Freddy Garcia, at times out shining the proven veteran. Matt Murton hit his first home run of the season, a pinch-hit 3-run shot in the 7th. Alfonso Soriano extended his hitting streak to 20 games but in the end it was the Cubs bullpen that allowed 7 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings that was the difference in the game.

Shane Victorino played a big part in shifting the momentum on Saturday. He threw out Alfonso Soriano at the plate in the 6th and the Phillies offense responded with 3 runs in the bottom half. After the Cubs plated 6 runs in the 7th, Victorino threw out Jacque Jones at the plate to end the inning and the Phillies rallied with 2-outs in their half of the 7th. While the Cubs outfield defense has many holes, it is clear to see what a solid defender in the field can mean to a team.

Angel Guzman pitched arguably his best game of his young career. He threw strikes, at one point 19 in a row and recorded 15 first pitch strikes through the first 5 innings. He stumbled in the 2nd and allowed a couple of runs. Pat Burrell led off the 2nd with a double to left and Greg Dobbs followed with a single to center that put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Abraham Nunez grounded into a fielder’s choice, Burrell scored and Nunez was safe at 1st. Carlos Ruiz followed with a double to left center but Jacque Jones threw back to the middle of the diamond to Mark DeRosa who threw a strike to Michael Barrett to nail Nunez at the plate. Freddy Garcia followed with a double to right, Ruiz scored and Guzman walked Jimmy Rollins before striking out Shane Victorino to end the inning.

Guzman retired the Phillies in order in the 3rd (he struck out both Chase Utley and Pat Burrell swinging). Guzman gave up a lead off bunt single to Dobbs in the 4th but erased him on a 5-4-3 double play and struck out Freddy Garcia to end the inning. In the 5th, he retired the Phillies in order for the second time and at the end of 5 he had thrown 69 pitches, 51 for strikes. Chase Utley led off the 6th with a home run to left, Guzman retired Burrell on a fly out to right but Greg Dobbs singled to left center, advanced to 2nd when Jones bobbled the ball and Piniella went to the pen for Scott Eyre. Nunez tripled off of Eyre (he was called safe on a close play at 3rd when he slid under the tag) to plate Dobbs from 2nd and Nunez scored on a squeeze bunt off the bat of Ruiz. Guzman finished the day after recording 1-out in the 6th, his longest outing of the season. He allowed 4 runs on 9 hits, 1 walk and struck out 6.

The Cubs offense was quiet for the most part until the 6th inning. Alfonso Soriano singled to lead off the inning (he extended his hitting streak to 20-games a new season high for the National League surpassing J.J. Hardy). Soriano’s hitting streak is also the longest for a Cub since Jerome Walton in 1989. Cliff Floyd worked a 3-2 count before striking out while the Phillies were paying a lot of attention to Soriano at 1st before he eventually stole 2nd. Derrek Lee followed with a bloop single to center that Shane Victorino cut off from reaching Aaron Rowand. Victorino threw out Soriano trying to score from 2nd (Soriano appeared to be favoring his hamstring as he rounded 3rd initially) but Lee reached 2nd on the throw and scored on a single to left by Aramis Ramirez. Michael Barrett followed with a single to left and both runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd on a wild pitch. Jacque Jones continued his struggles at the plate and struck out to end the inning. In the 7th is when the game became very interesting.

Mark DeRosa led off the inning with a walk and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. Cesar Izturis doubled to right center, DeRosa to 3rd and the rain began to fall a little harder. Matt Murton pinch hit for Scott Eyre and homered to left for his first of the season (also his first career pinch hit homer). Soriano followed with a single to center and advanced to 2nd on a ground out by Cliff Floyd. Lee singled to right but Soriano was unable to score, the ball was hit directly to Victorino. Ramirez followed with a single to right to score Soriano and tie the game. Barrett stepped to the plate but the game was halted.

Former Cub, Antonio Alfonseca took the hill for the Phillies after the 1 hour 4 minute rain delay. Barrett stepped in and lined out to 3rd for the second out of the inning but Jacque Jones came through in the clutch. He hit a 2-out, 2-run double to left center to give the Cubs the lead. DeRosa followed with a single to right but Victorino threw out Jones at the plate to end the inning. Lee and Ryan Theriot both singled in the 9th but the Cubs were unable to rebound from the bottom half of the 7th.

Will Ohman took the hill to start the 7th inning and retired Jimmy Rollins and Victorino with relative ease….he threw first pitch strikes to both hitters. Aaron Rowand kept the inning alive with a 2-out single to center. Utley followed with a double to right. Rowand had stopped at 3rd but a bad throw from Murton in right allowed Rowand to score. Piniella went to the pen for Bobby Howry.

Howry walked Pat Burrell on 4 pitches and gave up a triple (and the lead in the process) to Greg Dobbs, who had a career day filling in for Ryan Howard (4-4, 2 runs scored, 2 RBI’s). Abraham Nunez followed with a single of Ramirez’ glove at 3rd, Dobbs scored and Carlos Ruiz homered to right to complete the scoring for the Phillies (6 runs on 5 hits and a walk in the 7th….all with 2 outs). The six through nine hitters for the Phillies (including Freddy Garcia) drove 9 RBI’s.

Lou Piniella has to figure out a way to get through to his players there are 3 outs an inning. What was the norm under the previous regime has carried over….this organization seemingly relaxes after recording the first two outs of an inning. The offense finally came around and had a big inning but nothing is more demoralizing to a team to battle back, especially against a pitcher they had no success against in the past (the 3 runs scored off of Garcia almost equaled the amount they had scored in four previous tries against him) just to end up losing the way they did on Saturday.

Ted Lilly will attempt to salvage the last game of the series on Mother’s Day against former Cub, Jon Lieber. It will be interesting to see how Piniella’s team responds.

Quote of the Day

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein