It’s Never Easy

Game Seven – Cubs 10 Pirates 8 – 12 innings
WP – Jon Lieber (1-1) LP – Evan Meek (0-1) Save – Carlos Marmol (1)

wflag.jpgLou Piniella’s crew jumped out to an early 7-0 lead in the 3rd inning against southpaw Tom Gorzelanny and it appeared they were well on the way to winning their third game in a row. The Cubs offense showed a lot of patience at the plate and took advantage of the Pirates miscues. After Gorzelanny left the game with 1 out and the bags full in the 3rd, Ronny Cedeno cleared the bases with a double to straight away center. But it all went down hill from there and while the Cubs ruined the Pirates home opener, it was anything but a pretty win.

The Bucs scored 5 runs in the 4th after back-to-back errors by Ronny Cedeno and Aramis Ramirez led to 4 runs. Ted Lilly could not find the plate and left with 2 outs in the inning after giving up 5 runs, all earned, on 7 hits. The Pirates kept battling back and tied the game in the 7th inning after a 2-out error by Mark DeRosa that allowed Jose Bautista to score all the way from 2nd.

Aramis Ramirez drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to right center in the 12th. Ryan Theriot scored the winning run after pre-game reports indicated he would not play on Monday. Theriot walked in his only two trips to the plate and stole two bases.

Jon Lieber proved his worth on Monday afternoon in a game the Cubs probably would have lost a year ago. Lieber threw 3-shutout innings and gave up only 2 hits with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. Carlos Marmol picked up his first save of the season.

It was an ugly win…but in September it will count the same as the rest.

The Cubs and Pirates combined for 18 runs in 26 hits with 5 errors….and the two pitching staffs walked a combined 19 batters. This was a game that neither team played well enough to win but at the same time it was good for the Cubs to be on the positive side of the outcome. Lou Piniella appeared bewildered as the game went on and one can only imagine what was said behind closed doors.

The Cubs scored in the 2nd inning after a double by Mark DeRosa. With Geovany Soto at the plate, Tom Gorzelanny uncorked a wild pitch. DeRosa advanced to 3rd. Soto followed with a single up the middle to plate DeRosa with the Cubs’ first run.

Reed Johnson walked with 1-out to start the 6-run 3rd inning for the Cubs. Derrek Lee followed with a free pass of his own. Aramis Ramirez reached on an infield single that Gorzelanny threw away. Johnson scored the second run of the game. With Lee and Ramirez on 2nd and 3rd, Kosuke Fukudome came through again with a single to right. Lee scored and Ramirez advanced to 3rd. Mark DeRosa walked to load the bases.

Geovany Soto singled to left, Ramirez scored and Gorzelanny turned the game over to Phil Dumatrait. Ronny Cedeno stepped in and cleared the bases with a double to straight away center. After Ted Lilly grounded out, Alfonso Soriano reached on an infield single. Reed Johnson popped out to shallow right to end the inning….and everyone relaxed, including the Cubs.

The Cubs offense had chances to add those all important tack on runs but managed only 1 run in the 6th.

Reed Johnson singled to lead off the 6th and advanced to 3rd on a ground rule double down the left field line by Derrek Lee. Aramis Ramirez hit what appeared to be a ground out to 2nd, but Reed Johnson broke on contact and slid under the throw by Freddie Sanchez. Damaso Marte came in from the pen and kept the Cubs off the board.

Kosuke Fukudome (3-for-5 with 2 walks, a run scored, a RBI and a stolen base) led off the 9th and 11th innings with singles but the Cubs were not able to string together any hits. In fact in the 10th….Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez recorded all 3 outs with strikeouts.

Ryan Theriot led off the 12th with a walk. He stole 2nd with Soriano at the plate. Soriano walked and both advanced 90′ on a wild pitch with Felix Pie up to bat. Pie grounded out to 1st and Derrek Lee was intentionally walked to load the bases. Aramis Ramirez followed with a sacrifice fly to right center….Theriot scored the go ahead run. Evan Meek uncorked another wild pitch with Fukudome at the plate. Soriano and Lee advanced and Fukudome was intentionally walked to reload the bases. Mark DeRosa walked to force in the Cubs 12th and final run of the game.

Ted Lilly’s performance in his first two starts of the year is very concerning. Lilly was spotted a 7-run lead and could not throw a strike. He should get on track, but it needs to be soon and it will not get any easier for Lilly next Sunday in Philadelphia.

Kevin Hart was very sharp relieving Lilly in the 4th and retired 3 of the 4 batters he faced in the 5th. However, he struggled with his command in the 6th and gave up a lead off walk to Jose Bautista and a single to Luis Rivas. Lou Piniella made the slow walk and brought in Carmen Pignatiello to face Nyjer Morgan.

Pignatiello walked Morgan on 4 pitches to load the bases….and then walked Nate McLouth on 4 pitches to force in a run. 8 pitches, 0 strikes and a quick hook from Piniella. Bobby Howry came in and gave up a sac fly to Freddie Sanchez that plated the Pirates 7th run and cut the Cubs lead to 8-7.

Both runners advanced on a passed ball by Geovany Soto but Jason Bay lined out to a diving Ronny Cedeno for the 2nd out of the inning….it was a very good play by Cedeno. Howry intentionally walked Ryan Doumit to load the bases and retired Xavier Nady on a ground out to short.

Michael Wuertz replaced Howry in the 7th. Wuertz gave up a 1-out double to Jose Bautista and retired Rivas on a fly out to right. Wuertz got the ground ball he needed off the bat of Nyjer Morgan, but DeRosa booted the ball and Bautista scored the tying run all the way from 2nd. Wuertz did his job and does not deserve the blown save.

Jon Lieber replaced Wuertz in the 8th and kept the Pirates off the board. The addition of Lieber gives Piniella an option he did not have last year.

Piniella emptied his bench and bullpen. Not counting the other four starting pitchers, only Henry Blanco and Kerry Wood were not used.

The Cubs are 4-3 after the first 7 games of the season and while a couple of games have showed what they are capable of, they are not playing good baseball right now. Once they start playing to expectations, just think about the possibilities.

The Cubs resume play on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Ryan Dempster is scheduled to face Zach Duke.

Quote of the Day

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