Piniella Digs the Long Ball

Game One Hundred Forty-Six – Cubs 6 Astros 2
WP – Steve Trachsel (7-10) LP – Woody Williams (8-15) Save – None

wflag.jpg Lou Piniella’s crew won their first back-to-back games since the Astros series at Wrigley at the beginning of the month. The Cubs tied a season-high with 4 home runs that accounted for all of their runs in the series and season finale. Alfonso Soriano hit his 8th lead off home run of the year and tied Rick Monday’s club record set in 1976. Aramis Ramirez added his 23rd of the season with 2 on in the 1st and gave Steve Trachsel a 4-0 lead before he threw a pitch. Daryle Ward took Williams deep in the 5th with his 3rd of the year and Cliff Floyd hit his second in as many nights in the 7th inning, his 7th of the season.

Steve Trachsel did his job and pitched just good enough to win. He won his first game with the Cubs this season and his first in a Cubs’ uniform since October of 1999. Trachsel worked his way in and out of trouble in 5 innings while giving up 7 hits with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. He threw behind in the count to the majority of the batters he faced. The Astros left runners on base in every inning Trachsel pitched and their only runs came off of solo home runs by Carlos Lee and Mark Loretta in the 4th inning. Trachsel left after the 5th and turned it over to the bullpen. In the last 4 innings Piniella’s pen gave up only 1 hit and 1 walk. Kerry Wood threw a perfect 7th inning and Carlos Marmol struck out 3 of the 7 batters he faced in 2 innings of work. Jacque Jones made a great leaping catch to take a home run away from Luke Scott in the 9th.

Craig Biggio faced the Cubs for the last time on Thursday night. Biggio was 1-for-3 and ironically enough, Kerry Wood struck him out in his final at bat. The Cubs finished the season series with a winning record against the Astros, 8-7. The win improved the Cubs record on the season to 4 games above .500 while moving them ahead of the Brewers by a half game for the lead in the division.

The Cubs built on the momentum from Wednesday night’s win. They came out swinging and got out to an early lead. They scored 4 runs before Woody Williams recorded an out but they were unable to tack on. They loaded the bases in two different innings but came away empty both times. Thursday was all about the long ball and they put a “W” on the board in a game they had to win.

Steve Trachsel worked around a lead off double by Hunter Pence. Pence popped a ball into shallow right center that fell in between three Cub defenders….Jacque Jones, Mike Fontenot and Cliff Floyd. Biggio sacrificed him to 3rd but Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee were retired on pop ups to the left side of the infield to end the inning.

Luke Scott tripled to left center, off of Jones’ head, with 1 out in the 2nd. Jones made a good attempt on the ball but over ran it. Soriano grabbed the ball and almost threw out Scott at 3rd. Trachsel walked Mark Loretta but Eric Munson grounded into his second double play in as many at bats, 4-6-3, to end the inning.

In the 3rd, Trachsel gave up a lead off single to Woody Williams….the third different pitcher to record a hit in as many outings. Hunter Pence struck out. Biggio singled to left center but Lance Berkman lined out to Mike Fontenot, he flipped to Theriot for the 4-6 double play to end the inning.

Carlos Lee led off the 4th with his 28th of the year to left. Trachsel retired the next two batters he faced before Mark Loretta hit his second home run of the series, his 4th of the year, to left. Trachsel walked Munson but struck out Williams to end the inning. Trachsel threw 69 pitches in the first 4 innings.

The turning point in the game came in the 5th inning. Pence singled to center to start the inning then Trachsel walked Lance Berkman with 1-out. Carlos Lee stepped in with 2 on and down by 3. Trachsel struck out Lee swinging for the second out. After a visit from Piniella, Trachsel retired Mike Lamb on a tapper back to the mound to end the inning….it was the last time the Astros would have two on base for the rest of the game.

Scott Eyre gave up a lead off single to Luke Scott in the 6th. Mark Loretta looked a strike three and Mike Fontenot grabbed a grounder from Cody Ransom, tagged Scott and threw to 1st to end the inning….a 5-3 double play.

Kerry Wood pitched the Cubs first 1-2-3 inning in the 7th. Craig Biggio was the last out he recorded. Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect 8th with 2 strikeouts. Josh Anderson walked with 2 outs in the 9th but Marmol struck out Orlando Palmeiro on 3 pitches to end the game….Senor Nasty!!! Jacque Jones’ catch helped the Cubs have an uneventful 9th. Luke Scott tipped his cap to Jones after the catch, a very classy move.

The Cubs are starting to hit the ball out of the park, while small ball has won a lot of games this season, the ability to put 3 runs on the board with one swing is always a “good thing“. The Cubs won the final two games of the series, must wins for a team battling to play games in October.

The Cubs open a huge weekend series in St. Louis on Friday….4 games in 3 days. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face Adam Wainwright in the opener.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver