Flippin’ the Switch

Game One Hundred Fifty-Five – Cubs 9 Pirates 5
WP – Rich Hill (10-8) LP – Zach Duke (3-8) Save – None

wflag.jpg Lou Piniella said after the game, “If you can’t get excited about this, you are not an excitable person,” and while there are 7 games left in the season, Saturday was an impressive win. The Cubs hit 4 more home runs and have hit 8 in the last 2 games. The ‘Big 3’ of Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano recorded all 8 RBI’s with the 9th run scoring after an error. Alfonso Soriano was 3-for-4 with 2 home runs, a double, 2 runs scored and 5 RBI’s. Soriano hit his 11th and 12th homers of the month and has a season total of 31. Derrek Lee was 4-for-5 with his 19th longball of the year, drove in a pair and scored two. Aramis Ramirez was 2-for-5 with a 2-run home run in the 3rd, his 26th of the season broke a 3-3 tie and the Cubs never looked back. Ryan Theriot added 3 hits in 4 at bats with 2 runs scored out of the 8th spot. The Cubs beat Zach Duke for only the second time and improved to 18-22 on the year against lefties. Lou Piniella’s crew is 8-3 since August 16th when facing lefty starters, 5-1 in the last 6.

Rich Hill became the 4th starter in the rotation to record double-digit wins on the year. Hill gave up 3 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings and while the line may not be impressive, his performance was. Hill got into trouble in the 2nd inning, he gave up 3 runs and appeared to be on his way to a very short outing. Hill settled down and retired 9 in a row and 11 of the last 12 he faced. The Cubs bullpen threw two more scoreless innings before Bobby Howry and Ryan Dempster allowed a couple of runs in the 8th and 9th.

Sam Fuld made the catch of the year in the 7th inning. Fuld robbed Nyjer Morgan of an extra base hit when he made a leaping catch into the ivy in right. Fuld crashed into the wall and then threw a one-hop strike to Derrek Lee to double off Nate McLouth to end the inning. The Cubs defense had another solid game. Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto made difficult catches in foul ground and both Mark DeRosa and Matt Murton chipped in with game changing plays.

The Cubs set an all-time attendance record on Saturday passing the previous record of 3,170,184 set in 2004. 3,211,098 fans have gone through the gates at the old ballpark with one game left. With the win, the Cubs are a season-high 9 games over .500 on the final full day of summer.

This was the offense Lou Piniella thought he had when the team left Mesa back at the end of March. The Cubs have out slugged the Pirates the past two games and for one of the few times this year, they gave Rich Hill some run support. Hill responded with innings and a win. He had only one bad inning, the 2nd was 3 bloop hits and a single down the line by Zach Duke….the only hard hit ball.

Hill worked around a bunt single by Nyjer Morgan and a walk to Jose Bautista to start the game, with a little help. Freddy Sanchez blooped a fly into shallow right, Matt Murton made a good running catch, but it was routine and for some reason Morgan took off for 3rd. Murton doubled off Morgan for the 9-6 double play.

Hill gave up a 1-out bloop single to Ronny Paulino in the 2nd. Steve Pearce followed with a broken bat, bloop single to left. Matt Kata then blooped a double down the right field line that lined just fair and bounced into the bullpen. Zach Duke followed with a single down the 3rd base line, with the infield in. Duke’s single scored 2 and gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Piniella got Steve Trachsel and Michael Wuertz up in the pen but after a visit from Larry Rothschild, Hill was lights out.

Hill retired Morgan on a pop out to Derrek Lee and he struck out Bautista looking to end the inning. Hill retired the Pirates in order in the 3rd and 4th innings. Hill walked Morgan with 1-out in the 5th. Morgan stole 2nd but Bautista popped out to 1st and Freddy Sanchez grounded out to 2nd on a very good play by Mark DeRosa to end the inning….it was a bad hop toward the middle, DeRosa threw out Bautista by a step.

Hill threw 74 pitches, 45 strikes, walked 2 and struck out 4.

Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless 6th inning. He walked Josh Phelps to start the inning but struck out both Paulino and Pearce looking on nasty sliders….both hitters bailed out of the box.

Scott Eyre, or Stevie Ire, pitched the 7th. Ire was effective thanks to the catch by Sam Fuld. The Pirates hit him hard but he faced the minimum. Bobby Howry gave up a run in the 8th after a lead off double Bautista and a triple by Sanchez. Howry retired the last three he faced and the runner on 3rd never advanced. Ryan Dempster gave up a 2-out home run to Nate McLouth in the 9th.

Big games are for big players….and they stepped up on Saturday. With 2 outs in the 1st inning, Derrek Lee hit his 19th home run of the year to left. Aramis Ramirez blooped a single into center. Matt Murton singled to right. Geovany Soto followed with a hard hit single up the middle off of Zach Duke’s glove. Freddy Sanchez got to the ball but threw it way….Soto was safe and Ramirez scored.

Alfonso Soriano hit his 30th home run of the season to right field with 2 outs in the 2rd….yes, to right field for the 4th time this year. Soriano’s home run tied the game after Hill had given up 3 in the top of the 2nd.

Derrek Lee singled to right to lead off the 3rd. Aramis Ramirez followed with his 26th of the year, a 2-run shot to left….on a side note, a lip reader might have noticed Duke saying, “(blank) that guy” as Ramirez rounded the bases. Craig Monroe walked with 2 outs and Ryan Theriot flipped the order with an infield single to the hole at short. Rich Hill grounded back to the mound to end the inning.

After loading the bases with 2 outs in the 4th and coming away empty, Ryan Theriot singled to left with 1-out in the 5th. Cliff Floyd pinch-hit for Rich Hill. Floyd struck out looking, one a bad call. Soriano followed with his 31st of the year, a no doubter to left. Soriano gave the Faithful a curtain call.

Jacque Jones singled to left with 1-out in the 7th. Theriot followed with a single to right. Daryle Ward struck out, then Soriano came through once again. He doubled to left, Jones and Theriot scored. The 5 RBI’s for Soriano tied a season-high.

While many can say it was “just the Pirates“, the Cubs beat a team for the 7th time this year that has had their number….and with one game left, the season series is tied.

Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to make the start in the final home game of the regular season against Tom Gorzelanny on Sunday afternoon.

Quote of the Day

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