A Perfect Homestand….Cubs Sweep Rockies

Game Fifty-Seven – Cubs 5 Rockies 3
WP – Sean Gallagher (3-1) LP – Ubaldo Jimenez (1-6) Save – Kerry Wood (14)

wflag.jpgLou Piniella’s crew started the month of June with a solid win against the Colorado Rockies and completed the 7-game homestand with a perfect 7-0 record. With the victory the Cubs set a new-season high with their 7th win in a row and for the first time since 1984 they posted consecutive homestands with 7 or more wins….a 15-2 record in the last 17 at the Friendly Confines. The last time the Cubs posted at least 7 wins without a loss during a homestand was in April 1970 when Ron Santo and company went 10-0.

The Cubs came from behind to pickup the win for the 6th game in a row. The Cubs jumped out to an early lead but after falling behind in the top of the 4th, they recaptured the lead in the bottom of the inning. The Cubs offense appeared flat at times on getaway day but came through with the big hit when they needed it. They managed only 9 hits with 3 walks and left 8 on base.

Aramis Ramirez, Jim Edmonds and Alfonso Soriano supplied the offense and Sean Gallagher won his third career big league game. Gallagher was effective and held the Rockies to 3 runs on 6 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Gallagher hit a couple of batters but did not issue a free pass and struck out 8 for the first time in his short career. The Cubs bullpen was very impressive once again. Michael Wuertz allowed an inherited run to score in the 6th and walked a batter but Scott Eyre, Bobby Howry and Kerry Wood kept the Rockies off the board and allowed only 1 hit without a walk and stuck out 4 over the last 3 1/3 innings.

Aramis Ramirez was 3-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI….and Alfonso Soriano hit his 13th home run in the 6th to give the Cubs a much-needed insurance run. Jim Edmonds picked up where he left off on Friday and finished the day 2-for-3 with a double, a triple, 2 RBI’s and a bases loaded walk in the 5th. Edmonds doubled in Aramis Ramirez with the tying run in the 4th.

The Cubs improved to 15 games over .500 and 26-8 at Wrigley in front of the largest crowd of the season at the Friendly Confines….

Lou Piniella continues to get contributions from his entire roster. On a day without Derrek Lee in the starting lineup for the first time this season both Aramis Ramirez and Jim Edmonds stepped up. Then there is Alfonso Soriano….while Piniella replaced him with Reed Johnson in left field in the 9th for the second time in 2 games, he still came up with another big home run. Soriano swung the momentum back to his team after the Rockies cut the lead to 4-3 in the top of the 6th. For all of his faults in the field, for the Cubs to be successful this season they need the Alfonso Soriano that has been producing at the plate for the last month.

Sean Gallagher might have sewn up the 5th spot in the rotation with his performance on Sunday. Gallagher made a couple of mistakes but pitched ahead in the count most of the afternoon. He showed very good command and velocity with his fastball. Gallagher’s lack of command on his breaking ball cost him a couple of base runners but all in all it was a very positive outing for the 22-year old right-hander.

Gallagher set a new career high with 8 strikeouts on Sunday and made a statement on the first batter of the game. Gallagher struck out Scott Podsednik on 3 pitches and retired the first two batters on foul tips that found their way into Geovany Soto’s glove. Todd Helton appeared to hit a routine fly to Soriano for the third out of the inning but the ball went off of Soriano’s glove….he recovered and threw a strike to Mark DeRosa at 2nd to nail Helton trying to advance on the error. Soriano’s second error of the year turned into his third outfield assist.

Gallagher struck out 2 more in the 2nd and retired 6 of the first 7 batters he faced. Gallagher hit Yorvit Torrealba to start the 3rd and gave up his first hit of the game a batter later….Scott Podsednik hit a hard single into left. Gallagher retired both Cory Sullivan and Todd Helton to get out of the inning. The 4th inning was not as kind to Gallagher.

Garrett Atkins singled to center to start the 4th. Seth Smith followed with a double down the right field line. Ian Stewart singled to right to tie the game at 1. With runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, Omar Quintanilla hit a sacrifice fly to left. Soriano made a good throw to the plate, but it hit Smith in the hand and bounced away from Soto….2-1 Rockies.

Gallagher struck out Torrealba and Ubaldo Jimenez grounded out to short to end the inning.

The Rockies third run of the game came in the 6th. Gallagher struck out the first two batters he faced (Smith and Stewart) but gave up a double to left center on the first pitch to Omar Quintanilla. Lou Piniella made the slow walk and replaced Gallagher with Michael Wuertz. Wuertz could not find the strike zone, left a slider up in the zone to Yorvit Torrealba and Quintanilla scored on a double to right center. Wuertz walked Ryan Spilborghs and Piniella made the slow walk.

With the tying run in scoring position, Scott Eyre quickly fell behind Willy Taveras 3-0. After a questionable first strike call kept Eyre from loading the bases, Taveras looked at strike three to end the inning.

Bobby Howry was very impressive in his 1 2/3 innings of relief with 2 strikeouts and Kerry Wood threw a perfect 9th with a strikeout to earn his 14th save of the season.

Ryan Theriot started the Cubs’ scoring in the 1st inning. Theriot reached on an infield single off the leg of Jimenez. The ball caromed off the left leg of the Rockies’ pitcher into foul ground and Theriot reached with the game’s first hit. Micah Hoffpauir advanced Theriot to 2nd with a swinging bunt and Aramis Ramirez drove him in with a single to right.

Aramis Ramirez led off the 4th with his team down 2-1 and reached on a bloop single to right. Kosuke Fukudome (0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts) struck out and Geovany Soto walked. Jim Edmonds stepped in and delivered a double to left that plated Ramirez with the tying run.

With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1-out, Clint Hurdle brought his infield in with Mark DeRosa at the plate. DeRosa hit a grounder to Ian Stewart at 2nd base, the Rockies’ 2nd baseman knocked the ball down, kept it in front but it got away and Soto was able to score the go ahead run. No RBI for DeRosa….but it led to a win. Gallagher sacrificed DeRosa into scoring position but Soriano flied out to right on a 2-0 count to end the inning.

The Cubs loaded the bases in the 5th after singles by Ryan Theriot and Micah Hoffpauir. The Rockies eventually issued the free pass to Aramis Ramirez after falling behind 3-0. With the bases loaded and no outs, Jimenez struck out both Fukudome and Soto. Jim Edmonds took strike one and then looked at 4 straight out of the zone….his patience forced in Theriot with the Cubs 4th run.

Sometimes it is not how you play a team but when you play a team. The Rockies were missing several of their key players but the Cubs still had to win the games. Clint Hurdle’s team can hit and that point was proven on Friday. Lou Piniella has a good team right now, they are beating the teams they should…. and the next month will provide a good indication if the Cubs are just a good team or a very good team.

Carlos Zambrano will start the opener against the Padres in the first of seven out West on Monday. Shawn Estes was scheduled to take the hill but was placed on the DL on Sunday. Bud Black will send Cha Seung Baek to the hill instead in his second career start.

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax