Game Fifty-Four – Cubs 10 Braves 1
WP – Sean Marshall (1-2) LP – Lance Cormier (0-1) Save – None
Just what the Cubs needed, a decisive victory over a good team against a pitcher they had no success against in the past. The Cubs scored 6 runs in the first 3 innings, all off of home runs, and never looked back. Mark DeRosa hit a 1st inning Grand Slam with 2 outs, Alfonso Soriano added a solo shot in the 2nd with 2 outs and Derrek Lee went deep in the 3rd for his 6th of the year. Felix Pie was 2-5 with a RBI and 2 runs scored in his return to the big league club and every starter reached base at least once on Sunday afternoon.
Sean Marshall was tremendous and threw 6 shutout innings before giving up a run in the 7th. Marshall gave up 6 hits, all singles, and tied a career high in strikeouts with 8 while walking just 1. The Cubs’ defense was very solid and for the first time in 5 games did not commit an error. This was a well-played game from all facets of the team, including the bullpen that allowed just 1 hit in the last inning and a third….the win ended a season worst 6-game losing streak and was the first win of the year for Sean Marshall. A solid win with solid contributions from every player involved…. Sean Marshall’s performance is exactly what his team needed. After he was staked an early lead, he never let up and continued to throw strikes. When he left the game with 2 outs in the 7th, the fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation and he tipped his cap in appreciation. The Cubs’ offense finally gave Marshall some run support and he settled in, threw with confidence all afternoon and rewarded his team with his best outing of his big league career.
This team received a much-needed lift in the 1st inning, not by the offense but by the Cubs’ battery of Sean Marshall and Koyie Hill. Kelly Johnson led off the game with a single to right. Marshall struck out Yunel Escobar for the first out of the inning. Edgar Renteria worked the count to 3-2 before swinging and missing at strike three with Johnson running from 1st, Koyie Hill threw out Johnson (the throw was there in plenty of time, Theriot could have made the proverbial sandwich while waiting for the runner) at 2nd for the strike ‘em out throw ‘em out to end the inning.
Felix Pie was the spark plug the Cubs’ offense needed in his first at bat of the game. After Soriano was retired on a comebacker to the mound, Pie singled to center. Derrek Lee followed with a single to left on a 3-1 count and Aramis Ramirez singled to right but Pie was held at 3rd by Mike Quade….respecting the arm of Jeff Francoeur. Jacque Jones followed and hit a ball to the right side of the infield that appeared to be heading toward an inning ending double play, but the ball hit Ramirez….dead ball, Ramirez out, Jones safe at 1st and most importantly the bases were still loaded….with 2 outs. Mark DeRosa worked a 3-2 count with a very good at bat before hitting his 6th home run of the season just to the left of straight away center. DeRosa finished the day tying a career high in RBI’s with 5.
Alfonso Soriano hit his second home run in as many days into the basket in left in the 2nd inning….the ball bounced out of the basket and was not ruled a home run initially but after a meeting of the minds, Soriano was awarded his 6th of the year.
Derrek Lee led off the 3rd with a home run to right center, his 6th of the year as well. The Cubs were retired in order in the 4th but added on in the 5th. Soriano led off the inning with a triple to center and was followed by a hustle double by Felix Pie. Pie broke his bat and beat out the throw from Francoeur with a head first slide into the bag. Bobby Cox lifted Lance Cormier for Oscar Villarreal.
Derrek Lee greeted Villarreal with a single to center off of Edgar Renteria’s glove to put runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs. Ramirez popped out but Jacque Jones singled to left to drive in Pie and Lee advanced to 3rd. Mark DeRosa hit a sacrifice fly to left center to score Lee and Theriot grounded out to short to end the inning.
Other than a single by Ramirez in the 7th, the Cubs offense was very quiet until 1-out in the 9th. Ryan Theriot walked and Koyie Hill was hit by Peter Moylan to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Angel Pagan hit a grounder to the right side that Jarrod Saltalmacchia (this was Saltalmacchia’s first action playing 1st base at the big league level) made a great stop on but his throw to 2nd went into left field and Theriot scored the 10th run on the afternoon. Soriano singled (Soriano was 3-5 on the day with a RBI, 2 runs scored and was a double short of the cycle) to reload the bases….but Pie and Lee both struck out to end the inning. The Cubs stranded just 5 baserunners on the day….
Sean Marshall did exactly what a big league pitcher is supposed to do with a comfortable lead….he threw strikes and did not allow a very good Braves team to hit the ball hard all afternoon. While Bobby Cox did empty his bench late in the game, it most be noted than other than the absence of Chipper Jones (Jones was placed on the 15-day DL on Friday), the Braves were playing with their “A” team and not a bunch of scrubs. Of Marshall’s 8 strikeouts, 7 of them came against the top five hitters in the Braves lineup….Renteria and Jones struck out two times each against Marshall and at one point struck out four in a row that included striking out the side in the 4th inning.
Marshall did not allow more than one hit in any of the first 6 innings with 3 of the hits he surrendered coming in the 7th inning alone, the last one to Diaz ended the shutout and Marshall’s day. Carlos Marmol retired all 4 batters he faced on 11 pitches and it took Ryan Dempster 8 pitches to record three outs in the 9th, although he did allow a single to Andruw Jones.
The Cubs played a complete game and unlike many of their other wins this season it was not fueled by one big inning. They hit consistently all afternoon, even with 6 of the 10 runs coming off long balls….of the 13 hits on the afternoon, 5 of them were for extra bases including the 3 home runs. This was a game the Cubs needed and one they can hopefully build from as they try to rebound from a horrible stretch of losses and a frustrating start to the season that hit the boiling point this weekend.
While the Cubs finished 1-5 on this homestand, it is how they respond on Monday against the Brewers that will be the test to see if this group of talented players has begun to become a team.
The Cubs start a 7-game road trip on Monday in Milwaukee that concludes next Sunday night on ESPN in Atlanta. Jason Marquis is scheduled to take the hill on Monday night against Dave Bush.