Game Sixty-One – Cubs 4 Braves 5
WP – Chad Paronto (3-1) LP – Ryan Dempster (1-3, BS 2) Save – Bob Wickman (11)
Ted Lilly was ejected in the 1st inning of the game after hitting Edgar Renteria on the third pitch of his at bat. The umpires had not warned either bench but home plate umpire Jim Wolf deemed Lilly’s actions intentional in retaliation for Tim Hudson hitting Alfonso Soriano on Saturday. With the Cubs bullpen depleted from the night before, Lou Piniella had little to work with and his shortened pen had a big impact late in the game. The Cubs battled back to take the lead with home runs from Michael Barrett and Mike Fontenot but were not able to add to their 4-2 lead in the 8th inning after loading the bases with no outs.
The Cubs bullpen stepped up after Lilly’s ejection and held the Braves to just 2 runs on 9 hits in 6 1/3 innings of relief but Ryan Dempster could not find the strike zone in the 8th inning. The Braves scored 3 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks with the winning run scoring on a wild pitch. Ted Lilly stated he was not throwing at Edgar Renteria, but according to home plate umpire Jim Wolf he was. After striking out the first two batters he faced, Lilly appeared to be a little wild before hitting Renteria (Renteria left in the 4th inning with a bruise on his hand, X-rays were negative and he is listed as day-to-day) with the inside pitch. Renteria approached the mound and Michael Barrett and Wolf stepped in between the two. Wolf appeared to warn both benches and then ejected Lilly as both benches and bullpens emptied. Piniella argued but to no avail and was told by Wolf he knew it was intentional.
Edgar Renteria’s actions after taking his free base must be addressed by the MLB front office. Renteria took out his frustrations on Mike Fontenot when he stole 2nd base with Andruw Jones at the plate. Renteria made a late pop-up slide and his forearm hit Mike Fontenot in the face on the way up, however Renteria was allowed to remain in the game. And while Lou Piniella was attempting to find solutions to his pitching problems, the Cubs could have given the Braves the ultimate payback for Hudson and Renteria’s actions but instead they were unable to hold a lead they worked so hard to get.
Carlos Marmol gave up his first runs of the season in his 3 innings of relief (2 runs on 5 hits, 2 strikeouts and no walks in 2 1/3 innings). Marmol was very sharp in his first two innings but appeared to “run out of gas” in the 3rd. After retiring Buddy Carlyle to start the inning, Marmol gave up a home run to Kelly Johnson and a single to left to Yunel Escobar. Renteria blooped a single to right center and with 2-outs, Jeff Francoeur broke his bat and singled to left to drive in Escobar. Marmol uncorked the first of three wild pitches on the night by Cubs’ pitching to move the runners up 90′ but Matt Diaz grounded out to short to end the inning.
Will Ohman came in to start the 4th, along with Angel Pagan. Ohman did not allow a run but his 22-pitch inning did not give Piniella the option to leave him in for the 5th. Ohman gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning but struck out Carlyle and Johnson before hitting Escobar to load the bases. Chris Woodward pinch hit for Renteria and flied out to end the inning.
Michael Wuertz and Bobby Howry pitched the next three innings and gave up a combined 2 hits. Howry allowed a walk and struck out 2 in his two innings of relief and was very sharp on the mound….35 pitches, 24 for strikes. Ryan Dempster took the mound in the 8th in search of a 6-out save but unfortunately he was barely able to get three.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off the 8th with a ringing double off the right field wall. Scott Thorman followed on a double to right to score Saltalamacchia and pinch hitter Willie Harris singled to right to put runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs. Kelly Johnson was intentionally walked to load the bases and Escobar grounded into a 6-4-3 double play but Thorman scored to tie the game. Brian McCann pinch hit for Woodward and after 3 straight balls, Piniella issued the 4th intentionally. Andruw Jones worked the count to 3-2 and Dempster uncorked a wild pitch (he fell down on the mound during his follow through) and Harris scored the winning run.
The Cubs could not get on the board until the 5th inning. Mark DeRosa singled to center to lead off the inning and Mike Fontenot tripled down the 1st base line to score DeRosa from 1st. Cesar Izturis swung at the first pitch and flied out to left, not deep enough to score Fontenot. Angel Pagan followed with a grounder to 1st that Thorman thought would provide a play at the plate. Fontenot did not break from 3rd and Pagan beat out the throw back to Johnson at 1st. Alfonso Soriano followed with nearly a 400′ sacrifice fly to right, Fontenot scored to tie the game. Felix Pie grounded out to 2nd to end the inning (Pie was 0-5 and ended his hitting streak).
The last two runs for the Cubs came on solo home runs by Michael Barrett in the 6th and Mike Fontenot in the 7th….the first of his career. The Cubs had chances in the 7th and 8th to add to their lead. Derrek Lee grounded out with runners on 2nd and 3rd in the 7th. In the 8th, Barrett reached on an error to start the inning, Ryan Theriot singled and DeRosa reached on an attempted sacrifice bunt that did not go foul (Woodward tried to let the ball roll foul but it stopped on the line). Mike Fontenot however could not come through again and grounded into a 5-2-3 double play with the bases loaded and Izturis swung at the first pitch again, hit a high chopper and grounded out to end the inning.
The Braves won their 11th game of the season when trailing after 7 innings….and the Cubs dropped another 1-run decision.
The last two games of the Cubs series with the Braves could have a lasting effect. Not only did Tim Hudson cool off Alfonso Soriano but the short outing by Jason Marquis and the ejection of Ted Lilly caused Lou Piniella to over use his already shaky bullpen. With the Cubs not having a scheduled day off for another week, the real test lies on Carlos Zambrano, Rich Hill and Sean Marshall. They gave Piniella very good outings their last time out and it will take repeat performances for Piniella to have time to get his bullpen back in order.
Sunday night was a tough loss but one a good club has to figure out a way to win….especially with they have the lead late in the game.
The Cubs will head back to Chicago to play the make-up game from April 11th against the Astros. Carlos Zambrano will take the mound against Woody Williams.