Game One Hundred Forty-Five – Cubs 3 Astros 2
WP – Rich Hill (9-8) LP – Matt Albers (4-8) Save – Ryan Dempster (26)

wflag.jpg The Cubs won their first game of the season at Minute Maid Park in dramatic fashion. Ryan Dempster took the mound in the 9th with a 3-1 lead but a bad bounce gave the Astros life in their last at bat. Mark Loretta hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to 1st base but the ball hit the side of the bag and ricocheted into right field. Mike Lamb then tripled to right center. With the tying run on 3rd, the infield in and no outs, Luke Scott swung at the first pitch and grounded out to 3rd. Jason Kendall made a game saving block on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt that walked Orlando Palmeiro. On a 2-1 pitch Eric Munson hit a grounder to Derrek Lee, he turned and threw a strike to Ryan Theriot at 2nd and Theriot fired to Dempster covering the bag at 1st….a 3-6-1 double play to end the game. It was truly an unbelievable finish. Several of the players pumped their fist in unison and Lou Piniella was very animated as he took the field to congratulate his team on the victory. Piniella said after the game, “This is a game we should be able to build momentum from and we will.

Rich Hill bounced back from a couple of bad outings with one of his best starts of the year. Hill gave up 3 hits, walked 3 and struck out 7 in 7 strong innings. The only run he allowed was a home run in the 7th inning by Mark Loretta. Hill was shaky early on but was able to work out of trouble in the 2nd and gained confidence as the game went on. Alfonso Soriano’s 15th outfield assist of the year changed the momentum in the 8th inning and allowed Bobby Howry to get out of the 8th inning without allowing a run.

Cliff Floyd and Ryan Theriot drove in all 3 of the Cubs’ runs. Floyd was 2-for-4 with his 1st triple of the year and his 6th home run. Floyd led off the 2nd with a shot into the upper deck in right and started the 4th with a triple to center. Ryan Theriot drove in the Cubs’ second run with a sacrifice fly in the 2nd and ended a 0-13 drought with a 2-out infield single in the 4th that scored Floyd.

The Cubs evened their season record with the Astros at 7 with 1 game left. Lou Piniella’s crew moved back into a first place tie in the Central with the Brewers and improved to 3 games above .500.

This was a big win for the Chicago Cubs, one they have found ways to lose over and over this season. They were unable to tack on runs but were able to make pitches when they needed to and to come up with the big play when they had to. The Cubs have not played with a lot of confidence of late, but this win should more than help build some.

Rich Hill gave up a lead off single to Hunter Pence in the 1st inning. Pence stole 2nd with Craig Biggio at the plate but Hill struck out Biggio and retired Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee to end the inning.

Hill walked Mark Loretta and Ty Wigginton to start the 2nd. Hill then retired the next 3 batters he faced….Scott struck out, Quintero grounded out and Albers looked at strike 3. Hill retired the Astros in order on 9 pitches in the 3rd and struck out Carlos Lee to start the 4th. Loretta reached on an infield in the 4th for the Astros’ second hit. Aramis Ramirez made a good stop on a ball hit down the line but his throw was low and Derrek Lee could not scoop it out of the dirt. Wigginton grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Hill retired the Astros 1-2-3 in the 5th but walked Biggio with 1-out in the 6th. Berkman grounded to 3rd, Biggio was forced at 2nd and Carlos Lee grounded out to 3rd to end the inning.

Mark Loretta led off the 7th with his 3rd home run of the year. Hill did not let the home run affect him and retired the next 3 batters he faced. Hill struck out 2 of the last 3 batters he faced and took the mound in the 8th.

Once the Astros announced Chris Burke, Piniella went to his pen for Bobby Howry. Burke popped out to Lee in foul ground. Hunter Pence followed with a single to center. Craig Biggio then singled to left but Alfonso Soriano bobbled the ball. Pence tried to advance to 3rd, Soriano threw a strike to Ramirez for the second out of the inning. Berkman followed with an infield single off of Howry’s glove. Carlos Lee stepped in, swung at the first pitch and flied out to end the inning.

After Cliff Floyd led off the 2nd with his tape measure shot to right, Mark DeRosa singled to center. Jason Kendall singled to right and DeRosa advanced to 3rd. Ryan Theriot flied out to center, DeRosa tagged and scored from 3rd.

Cliff Floyd led off the 4th with his first triple of the year. Floyd hit the ball over Pence’s head in center. With the infield in, DeRosa grounded out to short and Kendall popped out to right. Ryan Theriot followed with a chopper over Wigginton’s head at 3rd….Floyd scored the Cubs third and final run.

Mark DeRosa doubled in the 6th and Rich Hill singled in the 7th….the last two hits for the Cubs. A day after leaving 15 on base, the Cubs left 7.

Anyone that has followed the Chicago Cubs for any length of time had flashbacks of all the strange plays over the years when the ball bounced off the bag. The collective expletive could be heard from coast to coast. The Cubs showed a lot of character by not allowing adversity to change their focus on winning the game.

The Cubs will face the Astros for the last time this year on Thursday night. Steve Trachsel is scheduled to face Woody Williams.

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax