Sweeping the Snakes

Game Thirty-Seven – Cubs 6 Diamondbacks 4
WP – Carlos Marmol (1-0) LP – Tony Pena (0-1) Save – Kerry Wood (7)

wflag.jpgFor the third game in a row the Cubs came from behind to pick up an impressive win….and in the process completed a 3-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the first time since 2000. The marquee match-up of Carlos Zambrano against Randy Johnson was scratched because of bad weather. After a 58-minute rain delay, Sean Gallagher made his first big league start and turned in a solid outing. Gallagher pitched a lot better than his line indicates, 4 runs on 5 hits in 4 1/3 innings with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. Chad Fox walked a pair with the bases loaded in the 5th to give the D’Backs the 4-2 lead.

Reed Johnson tied the game with an improbable 2-run homer in the bottom of the 7th off of Juan Cruz. Aramis Ramirez led off the 8th with a solid single to left. Ramirez stole 2nd, his first of the year, and advanced to 3rd on a perfectly placed bunt by Kosuke Fukudome. Geovany Soto tapped out in front of the plate for the second out but it was a productive out as Fukudome advanced to 2nd on the play.

Lou Piniella managed his bench to perfection. Daryle Ward was on deck when Soto was at the plate, but after Fukudome advanced to 2nd, Piniella substituted Alfonso Soriano for Ward. Bob Melvin intentionally walked Soriano to load the bases. Piniella then inserted Ward for Felix Pie. For the second day in a row, Daryle Ward delivered a clutch hit off the bench with a 2-run double to right center that gave the Cubs a 6-4 lead.

Kerry Wood faced the minimum in the 9th for the save after Augie Ojeda grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game. This was a great weekend for a Cubs team that limped home after a disappointing road trip….and Lou Piniella’s crew is now tied for the division lead with the St. Louis Cardinals.

After the Diamondbacks swept the Cubs out of the playoffs last fall, many of the experts predicted more of the same at the beginning of the weekend. Most figured the Cubs would bow to the younger and more talented team from Arizona….especially with the way the Cubs only won 2 of 6 games against their division rivals. Lou Piniella had his team ready to play and for the first time this season played a complete series against a very good team. The Cubs much-maligned bullpen was the difference in the series and Piniella received quality starts from Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster as well as a solid outing from Sean Gallagher. It is only the second weekend in May but the way Lou’s crew battled all weekend showed a lot of character after being embarrassed last Wednesday afternoon.

The Sean Gallagher-Edgar Gonzalez was as advertised, a pitcher’s duel? Both pitchers turned in good starts on short notice and Gonzalez was in line for the win until Cruz served up the home run to Reed Johnson.

Gallagher made his case to be in the Cubs’ starting rotation. He struck out Augie Ojeda to start the game but gave up a 2-out walk to Chris Young that cost him a run. Conor Jackson followed with a wind-aided triple to center that gave the D’Backs an early 1-0 lead. Gallagher retired Justin Upton on a fly out to left to end the inning.

Gallagher struck out 2 of the 4 batters he faced in the 2nd….but another 2-out walk extended the inning and flipped the lineup. Gallagher retired the D’Backs in order in the 3rd and struck out a pair in the 4th. The 5th inning however was not as kind….

The Cubs had taken a 2-1 lead in the 3rd on Derrek Lee’s 10th home run of the year, a solo shot to right center. Gallagher kept Arizona off the board since the 1st inning but gave up a lead off double to Miguel Montero in the 5th. Edgar Gonzalez sacrificed him to 3rd and with the infield in, Augie Ojeda delivered again with a base hit to right. Montero scored to tie the game at 2.

Eric Byrnes followed with a double to left. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and only 1 out, Gallagher intentionally walked Chris Young to load the bases. Lou Piniella made the slow walk and replaced Gallagher with Chad Fox.

Fox ended up walking Conor Jackson and Justin Upton to force in two runs before retiring Stephen Drew on a pop out to Ryan Theriot and Mark Reynolds on a fly out to right. The Diamondbacks scored 3 runs on 3 hits with 3 walks in the top of the 5th inning.

Fox faced the minimum in the 6th after walking Chris Burke with 1 out and then picking him off of 1st base. Michael Wuertz retired the heart of the Diamondbacks lineup in the 7th on just 4 pitches. After Johnson tied the game in the bottom of the 7th, Piniella called on Carlos Marmol to keep the game tied. Marmol delivered and pitched a perfect inning with 2 strikeouts.

Kerry Wood took the hill in the 9th and after retiring Miguel Montero on a ground out to Mike Fontenot, hit Jeff Salazar to bring the tying run to the plate….but Augie Ojeda grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and the game.

The Cubs first run of the afternoon came in the 2nd inning. Mark DeRosa walked after a very close pitch that ran the count to 3-2. Felix Pie followed with a single to right and Sean Gallagher executed the first sacrifice bunt of his Major League career. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs, Gonzalez uncorked a wild pitch with Reed Johnson at the plate. DeRosa scored the tying run and Johnson tapped back to the mound to end the inning.

Derrek Lee stepped in with 1-out in the 3rd and deposited Gonzalez’ first pitch into the bleachers in right center that gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead until the 5th inning.

Juan Cruz replaced Edgar Gonzalez in the 6th inning and struck out two of the four batters he faced. After striking out Felix Pie to start the 7th, Cruz walked Mike Fontenot ahead of Johnson’s home run. Fontenot turned in a very good at bat, fouled off pitches and found a way to get on base. Cruz fell behind Johnson 2-0 before throwing a strike. On a 2-1 pitch from Juan Cruz, Reed Johnson tied the game with one swing and elicited, “I can’t believe it!” from Pat Hughes on the home run call.

The Cubs improved to 7 games over .500 on the year after a weekend that most predicted to go the other way.

Carlos Zambrano’s start was pushed to Monday night and he will face Randy Wolf in the first of four against the Padres.

Quote of the Day

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