An Exclamation Point – Cubs 11 Brewers 4

Game One Hundred Nine – Cubs 11 Brewers 4
WP – Rich Harden (6-2, 1-1) LP – Dave Bush (5-9) Save – None

wflag.jpgFor the first time this season the Chicago Cubs are 21 games over .500 after their first 4-game sweep on the road since 2004. The Cubs offense hit 4 home runs on the afternoon and handed Rich Harden his first win in a Cubs’ uniform. Jim Edmonds put the Cubs on the board in the 3rd inning with his 11th home run as a Cub and gave Rich Harden a lot of breathing room in the 4th. The turning point in the game however came courtesy of Aramis Ramirez.

Dave Bush retired Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee to start the 4th but Aramis Ramirez was very patient against Dave Bush and worked a 2-out walk….the first free pass issued by Bush since June 30th. Kosuke Fukudome continued to prove he is more comfortable in the 5th spot of the lineup and followed the walk to Ramirez with a double to right. Bush then hit Mark DeRosa on a 0-2 pitch to load the bases. Jim Edmonds stepped in and cleared the bases with an opposite field Grand Slam….his 13th long ball of the year and his 12th as a Cub.

The Brewers cut the Cubs’ lead to 5-1 in the 7th after a solo home run by Prince Fielder but Alfonso Soriano got the run right back in the 8th. Soriano hit his 18th of the season over the wall in left center. The Cubs kept tacking on runs despite being out hit by the Brewers, 10-9.

Ryan Theriot reached on an error by Craig Counsell following the Soriano home run and scored on a 2-out double by Aramis Ramirez. Kosuke Fukudome followed with his 8th home run of the season to the second deck in right and gave the Cubs a 9-1 lead.

Eric Gagne tried to send a message by throwing ball four behind Jim Edmonds to start the 9th. Gagne was ejected, Geovany Soto doubled and with runners on 2nd and 3rd, Mike Fontenot responded to Ned Yost with an opposite field double that plated both Edmonds and Soto with the Cubs’ 10th and 11th runs of the game.

Rich Harden was nasty once again and followed three straight 10-strikeout performances with 9 more on Thursday against the Brewers. Harden did not walk a batter in 7 strong innings and gave up 1 run on 6 hits on 105 pitches.

Some of the mainstream media predicted a sweep in the 4-game series, but no one thought it would be the Cubs that would win all four.

With the win, Lou Piniella’s crew won their 5th straight and created a little separation in the division on the last day of July. There is still a lot of baseball left to be played but the Cubs broke out of their offensive slump with contributions from the entire roster over the last four games….

The Chicago Cubs waited until the last four days of July to play arguably their best ball of the season. The offense outscored the Brewers 31-11 with only 5 home runs….one on Monday by Alfonso Soriano then four on Thursday, two by Jim Edmonds, another by Soriano and one by Kosuke Fukudome. The Cubs’ starting staff allowed only 5 earned runs on 23 hits with 3 walks and 31 strikeouts in 29 innings while the defense did not commit a single error. A team that appeared destined to start the four game series tied, or worse, with the Brewers after the 3rd inning on Sunday truly had a very good week.

Lou Piniella received contributions from his entire roster. Monday night was the Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Reed Johnson show….Tuesday night it was Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome and Mark DeRosa while Wednesday Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot, Reed Johnson and Ryan Dempster were the standouts….and on Thursday, Jim Edmonds drove in the games first 5 runs playing in his first game since Sunday before Soriano added his second home run of the series and both Kosuke Fukudome and Mike Fontenot got into the act late….and there was the ‘little performance‘ from Rich Harden.

Dave Bush held the Cubs hitless until the 3rd inning and actually faced the minimum through in the first two innings. The key to Bush’s success of late has been the fact he was throwing strikes and staying ahead in the count….but that all changed against Jim Edmonds.

Edmonds was very patient and worked the count to 3-1 before launching a home run into the stands in right. Geovany Soto followed with a single but a botched bunt attempt by Rich Harden and a head’s up play by Craig Counsell (Counsell let Harden’s pop up fall and started a 5-6-4 double play) erased the hit and Soriano flied out to left to end the inning.

Bush retired the Cubs first two hitters (Theriot and Lee) to start the 4th before issuing his first walk since June 30th to Aramis Ramirez. The 2-out walk led to the big inning. Kosuke Fukudome followed with a double down the right field line and Bush loaded the bases when he hit Mark DeRosa on a 0-2 pitch. Bush missed on the first pitch of the at bat to Jim Edmonds then received a gift when Doug Eddings did not ask for help from 3rd base umpire Lance Barksdale on a check swing by Edmonds. After a brief conversation, Edmonds stepped back in and lifted the next offering from Bush over the wall in left center….Edmonds’ opposite field Grand Slam gave the Cubs a 5-0 lead and they never looked back.

Bush retired the Cubs in order in the 5th, 6th and 7th innings and cut the lead to 5-1 on the solo shot by Prince Fielder in the 7th. But Alfonso Soriano worked the count against Bush with 1-out in the 8th and on a 3-2 pitch gave the Cubs a 5-run lead again.

Ryan Theriot reached on an error by Craig Counsell and Ned Yost replaced Bush with David Riske.

Riske retired Derrek Lee on a fly out to center but Aramis Ramirez worked the count to 3-2 and on the eighth pitch of the at bat, doubled down the left field line….Theriot scored easily with 2 outs in the inning. Kosuke Fukudome hit his 8th of the year on a 2-2 pitch and gave the Cubs what appeared to be a comfortable 9-1 lead.

After Bobby Howry kept the Brewers off the board in the 8th (a walk and a strikeout in an inning of work, did not allow a run or a hit), Eric Gagne threw three straight on the inside part of the plate before throwing ball 4 behind Edmonds. Eddings threw Gagne out of the game….it was the right call.

Seth McClung replaced Gagne and his first pitch to Geovany Soto was high and tight….a little chin music. Soto responded with a ground rule double down the 3rd base line….a fan touched the ball and Edmonds had to hold at 3rd. Mike Fontenot completed the scoring with a double to left….Edmonds and Soto scored.

The Cubs improved to 6-4 on the year against the Brewers with 6 left to play on the season….a home and a road series with the Brewers in September and the last 3 games of the year are at Miller Park.

The Cubs start the month of August with the first of 9 straight against Central Division teams on Friday. The new-look Pirates open a 3-game set with newcomer Jeff Karstens scheduled to face Jason Marquis. It is very important for the Cubs to not take the Pirates for granted and it is up to Lou Piniella to keep his team focused and to avoid a let down that can happen after a big series.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver