Another Marathon and Another Win

Game Eight – Cubs 6 Pirates 4 – 15 innings
WP – Kevin Hart (2-0) LP – Phil Dumatrait (0-1) Save – Sean Marshall (1)

wflag.jpgFor the second time in as many games, Lou Piniella’s crew beat the Pirates in extra innings. Ronny Cedeno scored the Cubs first run of the game in the 3rd inning on a RBI single by Reed Johnson but the offense was unable to tack on to the lead against Zach Duke. The Cubs scored an unearned run in the 8th and Ryan Dempster turned the game over to the bullpen with a 2-0 lead.

Ryan Dempster threw 7 innings of 1-hit shutout ball on Wednesday night. Dempster was very sharp. He walked only 2 batters, struck out 5 and worked ahead in the count most of the game. Carlos Marmol gave up a run in the 8th and if not for a game changing defensive play from Derrek Lee….it might have been more. Kerry Wood blew his first save opportunity of the year. Wood served up a leadoff home run to Jason Bay in the bottom of the 9th that tied the game.

The Cubs finally broke the 2 all tie in the 14th. Derrek Lee walked with 2 outs and scored ahead of the second home of the year by Aramis Ramirez. Kevin Hart gave up a 2-run shot to Adam LaRoche in the bottom of the inning that evened the score once again. Felix Pie came through with a bases loaded, 2-out single to left center that plated 2 runs in the 15th. Kevin Hart scored the winning run and Sean Marshall picked up the first save of his big league career.

What will be lost in the marathon (4 hours and 20 minutes….the first 2 games of the series have lasted a total of 9 hours and 7 minutes) is the pitching performance turned in by Ryan Dempster. Lou Piniella’s former closer was just short of perfection. He allowed only 3 base runners in 7 innings and did not allow a hit after the 1st inning. At one point Dempster retired 9 in a row and sat down 20 of the last 21 batters he faced. He also executed two sacrifice bunts and one helped manufacture the run in the 3rd inning.

Ryan Dempster deserved to pick up the win….but as he said in Spring Training, he would understand if the bullpen blew a couple of his wins this season. Dempster lowered his team leading ERA to 0.69 on Wednesday night.

Carlos Marmol took the hill in the 8th and quickly gave up the Pirates second hit of the night to Jose Bautista. Marmol then hit Nyjer Morgan to put the tying runs on base. Luis Rivas popped up the sacrifice bunt attempt, Derrek Lee made a tremendous diving catch and doubled off Morgan on the play….so instead of 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, the Pirates were left with a runner on 2nd and 2 outs.

Nate McLouth followed with a double to right that plated Bautista and cut the Cubs lead to 2-1. Kerry Wood then surrendered the home run to Jason Bay, his first of the year, in the 9th. Wood retired the next three batters he faced, two on strikeouts.

Bobby Howry faced the minimum in the 10th. He gave up a 1-out single to left by Doug Mientkiewicz but he tried to stretch it into a double and Alfonso Soriano threw him out at 2nd….his second outfield assist in 8 games.

Michael Wuertz pitched 2 shutout innings and gave up just a walk. Kevin Hart replaced Wuertz in the 13th and retired the Pirates in order but Jason Bay reached on an infield single with 1-out in the 14th….the ball actually went off of Hart’s glove and Mark DeRosa could not make a play. Adam LaRoche followed with his first home run of the season, a 2-run shot to right.

The Cubs recalled Sean Marshall earlier in the day and he recorded the last out for his first career save….for those counting, it was out number 45.

The Cubs offense once again could not string together any hits. They pounded out 14 hits, walked 8 times and left 15 runners on base….9 in scoring position. The lack of fundamentals at the plate will eventually catch up to this team. They must learn how to not swing for the fences and take what the opposition is willing to give them….home runs are great but winning 90-plus games and a division championship is better.

On a positive note, this was another game they probably would have lost a year ago. The Cubs won their 4th in a row and are now 2-1 in extra innings this season.

Either Rich Hill or Jason Marquis will take the mound in the series finale on Thursday night. Reports before and during the game indicated Piniella wants Marquis to face the right-handed Pirates offense and Hill to face the Phillies on Friday. But Marquis left the park early with the flu on Wednesday night. Matt Morris is scheduled to start for the Bucs.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon