Game Twenty – Cubs 8 Mets 1
WP – Ted Lilly (1-3) LP – Nelson Figueroa (1-1) Save – None
Lou Piniella’s crew swept the 2-game series against the Mets on Tuesday afternoon and finished one of the best homestands in recent memory with an improbable 7-1 record. The Cubs played solid fundamental baseball over the 8 games and took advantage of every opportunity they were given. Tuesday afternoon turned into ‘The Ronny Cedeno Show‘ as the Cubs backup infielder drove in 5 runs and hit his first career grand slam in the 8th inning. Reed Johnson came through once again with a big 2-run RBI single in the 4th. Kosuke Fukudome had a perfect day at the plate….3-for-3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored. The Cubs scored all 8 runs with 2 outs.
Ted Lilly turned in a solid performance to earn his first win of the year but his hustle in the 4th inning changed the game. Ronny Cedeno doubled in Kosuke Fukudome with the game’s first run. Willie Randolph intentionally walked Henry Blanco and Lilly hit what appeared to be a routine ground out to 2nd base. Carlos Delgado tried to make a play on the ball, ended up out of position and Nelson Figueroa was late covering 1st….Lilly was safe with an infield single. Reed Johnson followed with his 2-RBI single to left.
Lilly made it through his 4th inning struggles and allowed only 1 run on 4 hits in 6 innings of work. The Cubs pitching staff surrendered only 2 runs to the Mets and neither of the runs was scored on a hit.
The first place Chicago Cubs are 8 games over .500 and after starting the season 0-2 they have won 14 of the last 18. The newfound patience of this Cubs’ team is truly unbelievable. The entire team is making the oppositions pitching staff work. They are putting themselves in hitter’s counts and while they left 13 on base, they walked 8 more times and pounded out 14 hits. The Cubs put runners on base in every inning, but one, on Tuesday. They are constantly making pitchers work in pressure situations and pitch out of the stretch. Those situations lead to mistakes by both the pitchers and the fielders. For years teams have played this way against the Cubs….it is way past time for the Cubs to return the favor.
While Ted Lilly was far from spectacular, for the first time this year he was effective. Lilly earned the win against a very good team and found a way to get past the 4th inning without giving up a bunch of runs. Lilly retired the first 10 batters he faced before Angel Pagan doubled to right with 1-out in the 4th. Lilly walked David Wright and Carlos Beltran to load the bases.
Lilly settled down and retired both Carlos Delgado and Damion Easley to end the inning.
Brady Clark reached on a single to right to start the 5th. Lilly retired Raul Casanova on a ground out to 3rd….Clark advanced to 2nd on the play. Nelson Figueroa grounded out to short and then Lilly walked Jose Reyes. But Angel Pagan popped out to Mark DeRosa to end the inning.
The Mets scored their only run of the day in the 6th inning. Carlos Beltran walked with 1-out. Lilly fell behind Delgado, 3-1, before giving up a single to right. Damion Easley blooped a single into right to load the bases with 1-out. Brady Clark followed with soft liner that was almost caught by a diving Mark DeRosa….Easley was forced at 2nd and Beltran scored on the fielder’s choice. With runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs, Casanova hit a grounder to short and Cedeno tossed to DeRosa for the final out.
Bobby Howry pitched a perfect 7th inning while Carlos Marmol struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced in the 8th….Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Kerry Wood was warming up in the bullpen but after Ronny Cedeno’s slam, Piniella inserted Kevin Hart in the 9th to finish the game.
The Cubs offense loaded the bases in the 2nd after Aramis Ramirez walked, Kosuke Fukudome singled and Mark DeRosa walked. Ronny Cedeno struck out looking and Henry Blanco swung at the first pitch and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The Cubs finally broke through in the 4th inning. Kosuke Fukudome singled to right with 1-out. Mark DeRosa flied out to center but Ronny Cedeno doubled to right. Angel Pagan bobbled the ball, it bounced off the sidewall and Fukudome scored all the way from 1st. As mentioned, Henry Blanco was intentionally walked. Ted Lilly then hit a grounder into the hole in between 1st and 2nd, Easley made the play look routine but Carlos Delgado could not make it back to 1st, Figueroa was late to the bag and Lilly beat out the throw. Reed Johnson then followed with a single to left….Cedeno and Blanco scored.
The Cubs added a very important insurance run in the 7th….but it should have been more. Aramis Ramirez single to left and Fukudome followed with a double off the wall in left center, the ball almost left the park. Mark DeRosa singled to right, Ramirez scored and the Cubs took a 4-1 lead.
With runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, Ronny Cedeno struck out. Daryle Ward was announced as the pinch hitter for Henry Blanco but Willie Randolph brought in southpaw, Pedro Feliciano and Piniella countered with Geovany Soto. After a wild pitch and a 2-0 count, Randolph intentionally walked Soto to load the bases. Matt Murton pinch hit for Bobby Howry and hit into a 3-2 force out. Reed Johnson popped out to end the inning.
Felix Pie (2-for-5) led off the 8th with a single, Derrek Lee followed with a single to right and Aramis Ramirez flied out to the warning track in left….Aramis just missed it. Fukudome walked to load the bases. With the infield in, DeRosa grounded out to short. Pie was forced at the plate. Ronny Cedeno stepped in and hit the long fly down the left field line that stayed just fair.
Yes, it is only April 22nd and yes, there is 142 games left to play but this past homestand was just great baseball on the North Side of Chicago.
The Cubs hit the road for 5 games before an off day on Monday. Lou Piniella’s crew opens up a brief 2-game series in Denver on Wednesday night. Rich Hill will face the Rockies very talented southpaw, Franklin Morales.