Game Eighteen – Cubs 13 Pirates 6
WP – Ryan Dempster (3-0) LP – Zach Duke (0-1) Save – None
The first place Chicago Cubs won their 9th straight against the Pirates and in the process improved to a season high 6 games above .500. The final score does not indicate how close the game was after the top of the 5th. After jumping out to a 5-0 lead, Ryan Dempster allowed 3 runs in the 5th. The Pirates loaded the bases with 2 outs but Ryan Dempster struck out Adam LaRoche to end the inning and the Pirates threat. The Cubs offense responded with 5 runs in the bottom of the inning to put the game away.
Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot combined to score 6 of the Cubs 13 runs. Johnson was 2-for-5 with a double, hit by a pitch and scored 3 runs while Theriot was 4-for-5 with a double, a walk, 2 RBI’s, a stolen base and 3 runs scored. Aramis Ramirez hit his 4th home run of the year, a 2-run shot in the 5th, finished the day 4-for-5 with 4 RBI’s and was just a triple short of the cycle. A day after leaving with a stiff neck in the 6th inning, the red hot Derrek Lee was quietly 2-for-4 with a walk, 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s. Geovany Soto reached in all 4 trips to the plate with 2 singles and 2 walks. All of the starting eight recorded at least one hit.
Ryan Dempster put together another solid outing. After giving up a couple of hits in the 1st inning, Dempster retired 11 in a row. Dempster had pinpoint command once again….until the 5th inning. Dempster could not find the strike zone and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits with 2 walks and a hit batsman….but threw the pitch he needed to get out of trouble.
The Cubs outscored the Pirates 29-9 in the 3-game series and showed excellent patience at the plate.
Reed Johnson sparked the Cubs offense once again on Sunday. He led off the game with a double and scored on a single to center by Ryan Theriot. With Theriot at second, Zach Duke retired Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Matt Murton on ground outs in the infield.
Mark DeRosa and Geovany Soto each singled to start the 2nd inning. Ronny Cedeno tapped back to the mound and after a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Dempster (perfectly placed by the way), Reed Johnson popped out to 2nd base. Early on it appeared the Cubs offense was once again going to record a bunch of hits off of Zach Duke….but score only 1-2 runs.
Ryan Theriot led off the 3rd with a double to the corner in left. Derrek Lee singled to left, Theriot advanced to 3rd and Aramis Ramirez doubled off the wall in left center….the ball actually short hopped the ivy. Theriot scored and the Cubs had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Matt Murton then hit a grounder up the middle, Brian Bixler made a good play to throw out Murton….Lee scored and Ramirez advanced to 3rd. Mark DeRosa tapped back to the mound and Geovany Soto walked but Ronny Cedeno lined out to short to end the inning (Bixler actually dropped the liner and forced Soto at 2nd).
Zach Duke hit Reed Johnson with 1-out in the 4th. Ryan Theriot stepped in and Piniella called for the hit and run. The two executed it perfectly and Johnson scored all the way from 1st on a double to right center by Theriot. With Derrek Lee at the plate, Theriot swiped 3rd. Lee walked and Ramirez was hit by Duke….Aramis was not very happy about being hit on the left knee. Murton stepped in and grounded out to Adam LaRoche, but Theriot scored on the play for the Cubs’ 5th run of the game.
The Pirates cut the Cubs’ lead to 5-3 in the top of the 5th and the momentum was clearly in their favor. Geovany Soto led off the bottom of the inning with a solid single to left. After another great at bat, Ronny Cedeno doubled to left….Soto scored. Mike Fontenot reached on an error by LaRoche at 1st, Cedeno scored on the play to make it 7-3.
Reed Johnson reached on an infield single off Jose Bautista’s glove at 3rd. With runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs, Theriot tried to sacrifice the runners into scoring position but Franquelis Osoria misplayed the ball. Theriot was safe at 1st but Ryan Doumit threw out Fontenot as he tried to make it back to 3rd….it was one of the few errors made in the series by the Cubs. Derrek Lee then appeared to hit an inning ending double play but Freddy Sanchez threw the ball in the dirt, Johnson scored and Lee was safe at 1st.
Aramis Ramirez followed with his 2-run shot to left.
The Cubs added 3 more in the 6th after Geovany Soto walked to start the inning. Cedeno worked the count to 3-2 again before singling to right….Cedeno just finished the best two game stretch of his big league career. Bobby Howry batted for himself and struck out on three bunt attempts. Johnson flied out to center and with 2 outs, Theriot walked to load the bases. Lee followed with single to left, Soto and Cedeno scored….and Aramis Ramirez came through with a single to right that plated Theriot with the Cubs last run of the day.
Ryan Dempster was very good once again and the team improved to 4-0 in games he has started. At a pivotal point in the game, Lou Piniella showed how confident he is in Ryan Dempster. With the tying runs in scoring position, Dempster walked Jason Bay to load the bases with 2 outs. Everyone expected Lou to go to the pen, but he left in Dempster to face LaRoche. Dempster struck out LaRoche on a slider to end the inning….and the former closer pumped his fist as he left the mound.
The Pirates other 3 runs came off two solo home runs by Ryan Doumit. One in the 6th off of Bobby Howry and one in the 8th off of Michael Wuertz. Sean Marshall surrendered the 6th run in the 9th after a 1-out walk to Jason Bay and a double by Ronny Paulino. Marshall struck out Ryan Doumit to end the game.
The Cubs’ 12-6 start to the season must be put into perspective, it is much better than a year ago and they are beating teams they are supposed to….keep in mind the Pirates have a record over .500 against the other teams they have faced this year: the Braves, the Marlins, the Reds and the Dodgers. The next two weeks should be a good indicator of what kind of team Lou Piniella has this year.
In response to being told the Cubs were in first place after the game, Lou Piniella said, “I didn’t realize we were in first place. I don’t really look at the standings. As long as we continue to play good baseball and win games that is all that matters.”
The Cubs open a brief 2-game series against the Mets on Monday night. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face John Maine.