Steppin’ Up – Cubs 6 Brewers 4

Game One Hundred Six – Cubs 6 Brewers 4
WP – Chad Gaudin (7-4, 2-1) LP – Salomon Torres (5-3) Save – Carlos Marmol (5)

wflag.jpgThe Chicago Cubs waited 106 games to put together their best performance on the road this season. Many did not give Lou Piniella’s crew much of a chance on Monday night against CC Sabathia and the Milwaukee Brewers….but that is why they play the game.

In arguably the biggest game of the year for the Cubs, two of their biggest names came through with two of their best games of the year….Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano. Lee and Soriano had big nights at the plate and both were involved in the game’s deciding plays. Alfonso Soriano is starting to warm up at the plate and barely missed a home run on the game’s second pitch. Soriano ended up with a double, stole third without a throw and scored on a RBI single to right by Derrek Lee. Soriano did not miss his 17th home run of the year, and his second long ball in as many days, in his next at bat in the 3rd inning. Soriano launched Sabathia’s second pitch into the upper deck in left center. The Cubs offense made Sabathia work and displayed the patience at the plate that had been missing since before the break. Sabathia threw 124 pitches in 6 2/3 innings….his highest pitch count in 5 years.

Ted Lilly was cruising right along and had a 2-hit shutout going until 1-out in the 6th inning. Lilly threw a good game and was in line for the win. He gave up 3 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings with 4 strikeouts and a walk. The Brewers made two solid defensive plays that took the momentum away from the Cubs and woke up their offense in the top of the 6th.

Mike Cameron threw out Derrek Lee trying to scored on a single to center by Mark DeRosa and CC Sabathia beat Ryan Theriot to the bag to end the top of the 6th after Prince Fielder made a diving stop on a ball that appeared to be heading to right field. The Brewers offense responded with a big 3-run inning.

J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun hit back-to-back home runs off Lilly in the 6th and added the go ahead run after a single by Prince Fielder and a double by Corey Hart.

There were three plays that figured in the outcome on Monday night and the first came in the 6th on the double by Hart. Alfonso Soriano misplayed the ball in left center, it rolled all the wall to the wall, Fielder rounded 3rd and was heading for home as the cut off throw came from Ryan Theriot. As Geovany Soto braced for the play at the plate, Lee cut off the throw from Theriot and fired a strike to Aramis Ramirez at 3rd….Lee threw out Hart and kept the Brewers from tacking on a run. Bill Hall followed with a single to center, the Brewers fifth straight hit in the inning. The cutoff by Lee allowed the Brewers to score the go ahead run but Lee’s decision kept the Brewers from having a big inning.

The Cubs took the lead in the top of the 7th after two gifts from Rickie Weeks and one great take out slide at 2nd by Reed Johnson. Ronny Cedeno started the inning off of Sabathia with a bloop single to right. Kosuke Fukudome pinch hit for Ted Lilly and reached on an infield single up the middle. Weeks tried to back hand the ball but missed and both runners reached for Soriano. Sabathia struck out Soriano on a 3-2 pitch but Cedeno and Fukudome executed the double steal and Cedeno was called safe at 3rd on a very close play. Reed Johnson reached on the Cubs second walk of the night to load the bases.

Derrek Lee has made a habit of grounding into inning ending double plays this season and he appeared to once again in the 7th on Monday night. J.J. Hardy fed Weeks and with Johnson barreling down on him, threw wide of the bag at 1st, Fielder could not handle and both Ronny Cedeno and Kosuke Fukudome scored to give the Cubs the lead.

Bobby Howry blew his second save of the year in the 7th. With 2 outs and the bases empty, Howry left a 2-2 pitch up in the zone to Russell Branyan and the tied the game with his second pinch-hit home run of the year.

Chad Gaudin struck out the side in the 8th and setup the 9th for Derrek Lee and Carlos Marmol.

Derrek Lee came threw with his 11th game winning RBI of the season in the 9th inning. After Soriano and Mike Fontenot worked 1-out walks against Salomon Torres, Derrek Lee hit a double down the right field line that plated Soriano with the go ahead run. Mark DeRosa added the all-important tack on run with a bases loaded, 2-out infield single to the hole at short.

Every win is important during the course of a season but with all the hype surrounding this 4-game series in July a win in the first game with the Brewers’ newest ace on the mound was a good way to start the week for the Cubs. With the victory the Cubs improved to 18 games over .500 on the season….

References were made earlier in the day on Monday that this series had the feeling of a heavyweight title bout and while the Cubs only won round one, the remaining 9 games on the schedule with the Brewers figure to be more of the same as Monday night. Simply put, what a game!

Alfonso Soriano set the tone for the night on the game’s second pitch. Soriano hit a double of the base of the wall in left center. After Reed Johnson popped out, Derrek Lee fouled a ball off his left knee and was clearly in a lot of pain. On a 1-2 pitch from Sabathia, Soriano stole 3rd without a throw from Jason Kendall. Lee took the next pitch from Sabathia into right and plated Soriano with the game’s first run.

Soriano did not need any help in the 3rd inning….his 17th of the year gave the Cubs a much-needed insurance run. Soriano was in the middle of every scoring opportunity on Monday night.

After the Brewers took a 3-2 in the 6th, the Cubs came right back in the 7th….a sign of a good team. Ronny Cedeno started the inning with a bloop single to right and Kosuke Fukudome’s infield single put the tying run in scoring position for Soriano.

The free-swinging slugger displayed patience at the plate on Monday night that he has not shown too often in a Cubs’ uniform. Soriano took close pitches in the 7th and while he eventually struck out, he worked the count to 3-2 and Piniella started the runners. Cedeno and Fukudome both advanced on the swinging strike three and Reed Johnson walked to load the bases after he worked a 3-2 count on Sabathia.

Ned Yost left Sabathia in to face Derrek Lee and he appeared to get out of the inning. Lee hit a routine groundball to Hardy at short and it was a tailor made 6-4-3 double play, but the Cubs caught a break (Reed Johnson’s slide helped) and Weeks threw the ball to the outfield side of first base….Cedeno and Fukudome scored, 4-3 Cubs.

Eric Gagne worked around a 1-out walk by Mark DeRosa and retired Daryle Ward on a pop out to shallow center to end the 8th inning with the score tied at 4.

Yost inserted his closer in the 9th and after striking out Kosuke Fukudome swinging, Salomon Torres issued back-to-back walks to Alfonso Soriano and pinch-hitter Mike Fontenot. Soriano and Fontenot made Torres throw a combined 12 pitches, 6 each. Torres quickly got ahead of Derrek Lee 1-2 but Lee ripped his next pitch down the right field line….Soriano scored the eventual winning run.

After Aramis Ramirez was intentionally walked to load the bases, Geovany Soto struck out but Mark DeRosa hit a grounder to the hole at short. Hardy tried to throw out Ramirez at 2nd but the throw was late and Mike Fontenot scored the insurance run the Cubs’ needed.

Carlos Marmol took the mound in the 9th and he received a gift from Bill Hall. Marmol struck him out swinging on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt. Hall tried to check but was called out. Marmol got Mike Cameron to look at strike three but Jason Kendall walked with 2-outs. Gabe Kapler battled and appeared to strikeout on the fifth pitch of the bat, but he fouled the ball at the plate….and received one more chance.

Kapler lifted the next pitch into left and Soriano drifted back to the track, hopped and caught the 27th out.

….And this was just game one.

Carlos Zambrano versus Ben Sheets in game two of round one on Tuesday night.

Quote of the Day

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