A Positive Loss

Game One Hundred Sixty-Two – Cubs 4 Reds 8
WP – Homer Bailey (4-2) LP – Ryan Dempster (2-7) Save – None

The 2007 National League Central Division Champions completed the regular season the way it began, in Cincinnati with a loss to the Reds. In between the Cubs won 85 games, lost 75, won the Central and finished with a mark of 85-77 for the year. What a difference a year makes, a 19-game improvement and a division championship….not bad, not bad at all, but Lou Piniella’s crew still has business to take care of and baseball’s second season begins for the Cubs on Wednesday in the desert against the Diamondbacks.

Lou Piniella started his regulars on Sunday and they did all of the damage against Homer Bailey in a short amount of time. The Cubs scored all 4 of their runs in the first 3 innings before Piniella emptied his bench. Alfonso Soriano led off the game with his 33rd home run of the year, drove in 3 of the Cubs’ 4 runs and was 3-for-3 in his final tune-up before the playoffs. Soriano’s home run set a new club record for the most home runs in the month of September, 14, breaking the mark set by Ernie Banks in 1957. Jacque Jones was 2-for-2 with a double, a run scored and a RBI. Derrek Lee doubled and scored in the 3rd inning.

Ted Lilly was perfect in the 2 innings he pitched. Lilly threw 21 pitches, 15 for strikes and retired all 6 batters he faced. Jason Marquis had another rough outing. He took over for Lilly in the 3rd and could not complete the inning. Marquis retired only 2 batters and gave up 4 runs, all with 2 outs, on 4 hits in 2/3 of an inning. Piniella apparently was very disappointed with Marquis’ performance and there is speculation that Marquis could be left off the playoff roster. Ryan Dempster took the loss after he gave up 4 runs, all with 2 outs, on 4 hits in his inning of work. Kerry Wood, Michael Wuertz, Carlos Marmol and Bobby Howry did not allow a run in the last 4 innings.

The Cubs lost a game they probably would not have, based on the start, if Piniella were not preparing his crew for the post-season. While it is never good to see the Cubs lose a game, the way the starters hit the ball and the way Lilly pitched was a good way to gear up for the NLDS.

After getting a well-deserved day off on Saturday the Cubs came out swinging against Homer Bailey. Alfonso Soriano has gotten hot at the right time and hopefully the two days off will not cool him down. The Faithful was just treated to one of the most dominating offensive months in Cubs’ history…. a .320 average, .354 OBP, .754 SLG, 14 home runs, 27 RBI’s, 11 doubles and 92 total bases, all out of the leadoff spot. The ‘Big 3’ really stepped up and carried the team the way they are paid to do and Soriano more than made up for his poor start.

Homer Bailey worked around 2 walks in the 1st inning after Soriano’s home run. In the 2nd inning, Jacque Jones led off with a single to center. Jason Kendall walked with 1-out and both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Ted Lilly. Soriano singled to center to drive in both Jones and Kendall….solid fundamental baseball.

Derrek Lee led off the 3rd with a ground rule double (the ball stuck in the scoreboard in left). Cliff Floyd moved Lee to 3rd with a groundout to 1st….a productive out. Jacque Jones then doubled down the 1st base line to score Lee. All but 1 of the Cubs 4 runs was scored with 2 outs, another good sign going into the playoffs.

Bailey took control once Piniella emptied his bench. Jason Kendall blooped a single to left to start the 4th and advanced to 3rd on a double by Soriano but Mike Fontenot struck out and Henry Blanco popped out to end the inning….one would like to think either Ryan Theriot or Derrek Lee would have gotten the job done in that situation. The Cubs did not manage another hit after the Soriano double.

As mentioned Ted Lilly did a great job in his 2 innings. He kept the Reds off the bases and off the scoreboard. Cubs’ pitching shutout the Reds in the first 20 innings of the series, until the 3rd inning.

Jason Marquis took over in the 3rd and gave up the first hit of the day, a lead off single by Jason Ellison. Marquis struck out Juan Lopez and retired Bailey on a strikeout, Ellison stole 2nd on the swinging strike three. Marquis walked Jeff Keppinger and on a 3-2 pitch to Ryan Hanigan gave up a single to center….Ellison scored the Reds first run of the series. Joey Votto followed with a double to right center to make it 4-3 Cubs, still with 2 outs. Jorge Cantu then singled to center to score Votto with the tying run. A not-to-pleased Lou Piniella made the slow walk and brought in Will Ohman. Ohman retired Buck Coats on a check swing to end the inning.

Ryan Dempster started the 4th and the Reds picked up where they left off against Marquis. Dempster quickly fell behind most of the hitters he faced, and the results were very concerning. Jason Ellison led off with a blooped singled to center. Lopez singled to right on a 2-1 pitch. Bailey attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Dempster threw out Ellison at 3rd. Keppinger popped out to right on a 2-1 pitch then Hanigan lined to left to score Lopez….the 2 RBI’s by Ryan Hanigan were the first of his big league career. Joey Votto followed with a 3-run homer to right center….8-4 Reds. Remember the name Joey Votto.

All 8 runs the Reds scored were with 2 outs, 4 against Marquis and 4 against Dempster.

Kerry Wood pitched the 5th and after a double by Jorge Cantu, Wood struck out the next 3 batters he faced. Michael Wuertz retired all 3 batters he faced in the 6th. Carlos Marmol retired 3 of the 4 batters he faced, he hit Edwin Encarnacion. Bobby Howry was very impressive in the 8th. He struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced.

Lou Piniella’s crew is post-season bound and it is great for the last day of the season not to be the Cubs’ last day as well.

Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to take the ball in Game One of the National League Divisional Series on Wednesday against Brandon Webb and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Piniella did announce his starting lineup for Game One after Sunday’s game….

  • Soriano – LF
  • Theriot – SS
  • Lee – 1B
  • Floyd – RF
  • Ramirez – 3B
  • DeRosa – 2B
  • Jones – CF
  • Either Kendall or Soto
  • Zambrano – P

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne