Defensively Sweeping

Game Seventy-Four – Cubs 3 White Sox 0
WP – Sean Marshall (4-2) LP – Jose Contreras (5-8) Save – Bobby Howry (2)

wflag.jpg For the first time in the history of the Crosstown Classic the Cubs swept a 3-game series at U.S. Cellular Field and handed the White Sox their 6th shutout of the season. Sean Marshall threw extremely well but he has to give his defense the credit for the 6 1/3 shutout innings he tossed for the 10th win of his Major League career. The Cubs’ defense turned two double plays, most notably the 9th outfield assist of the season by Alfonso Soriano in the 5th inning. Soriano threw out Luis Terrero at the plate after tagging on an apparent sacrifice fly by Scott Podsednik. Cesar Izturis, Mike Fontenot and Derrek Lee also made fine defensive plays that held the White Sox scoreless and took away base hits.

Alfonso Soriano hit his 15th home run of the season in the 7th inning and his third in as many days. While the offense struggled to score runs in the three games, the pitching staff easily had their best series of the year. The White Sox managed just 2 runs in 3 games and did not record a hit with runners in scoring position. The Cubs appeared to be on their way to a weekend without any controversy but after Juan Uribe was called for obstruction in the 8th inning, Ozzie Guillen was ejected. After the smoke cleared and a delay in excess of 10 minutes, Bobby Howry picked up his 2nd save of season against one of his former teams.

The Cubs shutout the White Sox for the first time since June 26, 2005 and for the third time in the history of the Crosstown Classic the Cubs swept a 3-game series….July 5-7, 1998 and July 2-4, 2004 both at Wrigley Field. Also, with the win on Sunday, the Cubs evened the all-time series record at 30-and-30 and the 5 wins against the White Sox in one season are the most for the Cubs organization.

Sean Marshall was not sharp early on and once again was very effective (and efficient) without having his best stuff. Marshall walked only one batter, struck out 3, gave up 5 hits (all singles) on just 81 pitches and remained calm, cool and collected on the mound. The only excitement he appeared to show was after Angel Pagan made a nice catch on a ball hit by Paul Konerko, that he had misplayed to begin with.

Marshall walked Scott Podsednik to start the game but refocused after falling behind Andy Gonzalez and induced a 4-6-3 double play. In the 2nd, Marshall retired the first two batters he faced before a 2-out single to left by Tadahito Iguchi. But Josh Fields popped out to end the inning….the ho-hum Marshall threw 29 pitches in the first two innings, 16 for strikes.

Marshall did get into a little trouble in the 3rd. After striking out Terrero to start the inning, Uribe and Podsednik singled and Mike Fontenot could not get the ball out of his glove to complete the inning ending double play….Gonzalez grounded to DeRosa at 3rd, he threw to 2nd to force Podsednik but Fontenot could not turn the double play. Jim Thome hit a grounder down the 1st base line that appeared to have gotten past Derrek Lee, but Lee knocked it down, grabbed the ball and tossed it to Marshall covering 1st for the out….Thome tried to slide but could not beat the throw. Inning over….shutout intact.

The 4th inning was highlighted by two good defensive plays….one by Cesar Izturis and the other by Mike Fontenot taking hits away from Konerko and Pierzynski to start the inning. Iguchi flied out to Cliff Floyd in right, Floyd made a routine catch a little more dramatic, to end the inning.

Marshall got into a little trouble in the 5th after striking out Josh Fields to start the inning. Terrero singled to right on a 1-1 pitch. Uribe singled to left but the ball took a bad hop (for the Cubs) on the lip of the infield grass, the ball changed direction and Terrero slid under the tag of DeRosa at 3rd after a good throw from Soriano, Uribe moved to 2nd and the White Sox had two runners in scoring position with 1 out. Scott Podsednik hit a 2-0 pitch to left, Terrero tagged and Soriano threw a strike to the plate. Koyie Hill made a fine catch on the other end while blocking the plate and tagged out Terrero for the 7-2 double play….inning over and Terrero still has not touched the plate.

When Marshall took the hill for the 6th inning he had thrown just 65 pitches and he retired the White Sox in order for the first time. Konerko hit what appeared to be a routine fly to center but Pagan got turned around, misplayed it and then had to make a diving catch for the third out….it was not pretty, but like Marshall, very effective. Marshall retired Pierzynski to start the 7th for his last batter of the day. Lou Piniella made the slow walk, told his starter, “Good job” and patted him on the backside as Marshall walked off the mound. Sean Marshall continues to be very impressive while doing his job. The Cubs have won Marshall’s last 5 starts.

Carlos Marmol was not as sharp as Piniella would like, but again….effective. Iguchi hit a sharp single to left but Fields stuck out for the second out of the inning. Marmol walked Rob Mackowiak on 4 pitches but Uribe flied out to center to end the inning. Will Ohman retired the Sox in order in the 8th with Mike Fontenot making another solid play in the field.

Bobby Howry came in to pick up the save in the 9th with Ryan Dempster being on the shelf with an oblique injury. Konerko popped out to Fontenot for the first out of the inning but Pierzynski worked a walk and Iguchi singled to left to bring the tying run to the plate. Howry settled down and struck out Fields and Mackowiak swinging to end the game.

The Cubs offense had chances early against Jose Contreras but could not cash them in. Derrek Lee’s hitting streak ended at 7 games and he left runners in scoring position twice. Koyie Hill blooped a single to left to start the 3rd and Soriano singled to left with 1-out but Lee flied out to the warning track in straight away center to end the inning. In the 5th, Soriano singled to left with 2 outs. With Soriano running with the pitch, Fontenot singled to right to put runners on 1st and 3rd. Lee flied out to the warning track in right center to end the inning.

Aramis Ramirez doubled to left to start the 6th inning (he limped into 2nd base). Cliff Floyd singled to right, Ramirez moved to 3rd. Angel Pagan hit a slow grounder to Uribe at short, Ramirez broke from 3rd and limped across home plate for the first run of the game.

Alfonso Soriano hit his 15th home run with 1-out in the 7th and Fontenot followed with a single to left. He stole 2nd with Lee at the plate….it was Fontenot’s first big league stolen base. Lee flied out and Ramirez lined out to center to end the inning. The 8th inning will be added to the history books of the Crosstown Classic….

Felix Pie walked after a very good at bat against Boone Logan to start the 8th. Pagan singled to left and DeRosa hit a line drive over the head of Mackowiak in right. Pie was unclear if the ball would be caught and went back to the bag to tag up but Pagan saw the ball was going to fall and was near the bag at the same time as Pie. When Pagan tried to round 2nd however, Juan Uribe interfered with Pagan and two separate umpires raised their hands immediately. Pagan was caught in a run down and eventually tagged out, DeRosa got caught in a run down between 1st and 2nd but Konerko saw Pie breaking for home. He threw to Pierzynski and Fields eventually tagged out Pie for, what it looked like at the time, one of the ugliest double plays in recent history.

After the play was over, the umpires had “a little meeting” and called Uribe for obstruction. Pie, Pagan and DeRosa were returned to their bases, everyone was safe, bases loaded with no outs, Ozzie Guillen did not agree and was eventually ejected. Once play was resumed, Koyie Hill hit a sacrifice fly to left center to score Pie but the throw from Gonzalez was cut off by Konerko and Pagan was once again caught in a run down and eventually tagged out.

While the three wins from the Cubs might not have been spectacular and their lack of run production is still concerning, but how many times in recent history have the Cubs come out on the losing end of these types of games? ….Especially to the White Sox.

Interleague play for 2007 is complete and the Cubs return to the North Side to start a 6-game home stand against the Colorado Rockies. Jason Marquis is scheduled to pitch the first game against Jeff Francis.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon