A Timely Comeback – Cubs 9 Marlins 6

Game One Hundred Five – Cubs 9 Marlins 6
WP – Chad Gaudin (6-4, 1-1) LP – Mark Hendrickson (7-8) Save – Jeff Samardzija (1)

wflag.jpgWhen the Cubs are locked in a close game with the lead in the 9th inning, Pat Hughes’ signature statement always begins with “Fasten those seatbelts” and Mr. Hughes could have uttered those words before the game’s first pitch….what an afternoon and what a game at the old ballpark located at 1060 West Addison.

The Cubs entered play in a tie at the top of the division with the Milwaukee Brewers in need of a win to finish the weekend series with the Marlins on a positive note. Jason Marquis struggled with his command and before the first 9 outs of the game were recorded, the Cubs were down 5-0 thanks to two long balls by Mike Jacobs. The Marlins’ first baseman hit a 3-run shot into the basket in center in the 2nd inning and a 2-run shot into the basket in right in the 3rd. In the meantime, the Brewers were leading 4-1 at Miller Park.

Alfonso Soriano started the comeback with a single to right in the 3rd, his second of the game. Ryan Theriot followed with a double to right and Derrek Lee bounced out to short to plate Soriano with the Cubs’ first run. Aramis Ramirez followed with a ground rule double to left and Theriot scored….the Cubs were down 5-2.

The Cubs tied the game in the 4th after a 1-out bloop single by Henry Blanco and a walk by Jason Marquis. Alfonso Soriano hit his first home run, 16th of the year, since returning from the DL. His 3-run homer to right tied the game at 5. The Cubs scored 5 unanswered runs and put themselves in position to pick up a much needed win.

Dan Uggla led off the 5th with his 25th longball of the year, all the way onto Waveland and appeared to take the momentum away that the Cubs fought hard to gain back. Marquis settled down and gutted out two more innings after the Uggla blast and gave his team a chance at another dramatic comeback….and they did not disappoint.

Chad Gaudin struck out two of the three batters he faced in the 7th. Gaudin threw strikes and was very impressive a day after picking up his first loss as a Cub.

Derrek Lee tied the game with a solo home run to start the bottom of the 7th. Lee’s 17th of the year and second of the week tied the game at 6. Aramis Ramirez followed with a single to right and after a botched bunt attempt by Jim Edmonds, Mark DeRosa walked. With runners on 1st and 2nd and 2 outs, Fredi Gonzalez brought in Joe Nelson to face Henry Blanco.

Lou Piniella countered the move and brought in Daryle Ward to face Nelson with the game tied at 6 with 2 on and 2 outs. Nelson uncorked a wild pitch on the second offering to Ward which ended up benefiting the Cubs in more than one way. Ward was intentionally walked to load the bases and Piniella called upon Mike Fontenot once again.

Little Babe Ruth responded with a bases clearing double over Josh Willingham’s head in left and gave the Cubs a 3-run lead with two innings left to go….in the meantime, the Astros had broken the game open in Miller Park and led by a score of 8-5.

Jeff Samardzija made his second big league appearance in the 8th inning and dominated the Marlins’ lineup. The Shark retired the bottom of the Marlins’ lineup in order with a strikeout and took the mound in the 9th.

Samardzija struck out Hanley Ramirez and Jeremy Hermida to start the 9th, both swinging, and then received help from his centerfielder. Jim Edmonds made a sensational diving catch in left center on a ball off the bat of Jorge Cantu to end the game. The Shark retired all 6 batters he faced in the last 2 innings on 25 pitches. Samardzija’s first career big league save….a rare two inning save and a memorable one at that.

The offense was led by the ‘Big Three‘ on Sunday afternoon….and Little Fontenot. Alfonso Soriano was 3-for-5 with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI’s. Derrek Lee finished 2-for-5 with a run scored and 2 RBI’s while Aramis Ramirez reached base in 4 of 6 trips to the plate and finished the afternoon 2-for-3 with a RBI.

With the unexpected come from behind win, the Cubs regained the top spot in the National League Central and became the first team in the NL to post 61 wins on the season….

The offense had a very productive, break out kinda of day and must build on the win and break the recent pattern. The first three series since the break have ended with a big offensive outburst….and Sunday was no exception. The Cubs must continue taking walks, coming up with clutch hits and scoring runs.

Lou Piniella said following the game, “Yeah, big come from behind win. 5-0 against a team that has had our number and a team that’s played really well against us.

The Cubs looked lifeless in the first 2 innings once again. The offense managed only 2 hits and a walk the first time through the lineup with 3 strikeouts. The entire team was swinging early and often and was making Rick VandenHurk look very good on the mound.

The Cubs lone hits in the first two innings came from Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome….and Soriano got it started in the 3rd inning. All three of Soriano’s hits were to the opposite field which is a good sign that he is not trying to pull everything he sees. Soriano started the comeback and finished it, the first time, with the 3-run home run in the 4th.

While Carlos Zambrano is what fuels the pitching staff, Alfonso Soriano is what powers the offense….plain and simple.

Lou Piniella might have found a piece he can add to his pen for the remainder of the season in Jeff Samardzija. A reliever must throw strikes when he comes into the game and if his team losses, at least he made them earn it. Too many of the Cubs’ relievers have a bad habit of throwing from behind in the count more often than not. After blowing a save in his first big league game on Friday, Jeff Samardzija threw strikes on Sunday.

The Shark’s minor league career was very confusing. He seemed to under perform until he was promoted to the next level. Could he be the rare exception to the rule of performing better under pressure than in a relaxed environment?

For one day the 9th inning belonged to Jeff Samardzija. After a 1-2-3 8th inning, Samardzija took the hill in the 9th and struck out Hanley Ramirez swinging on a 1-2 pitch and Jeremy Hermida swinging on a 1-2 pitch. The Shark pumped his fist as Jim Edmonds ended the game with a diving catch in left center field.

Piniella commented on the Shark following Sunday’s performance, “It’s impressive isn’t it? Two solid inning in an important game. Looked very comfortable and had good stuff to go along with it.

The Cubs played a good game….from the 3rd inning on and now they must build on the win. Piniella said after Sunday’s victory, “Good thing is we won a ballgame and the bats came alive. Hopefully they will travel well to Milwaukee.

The Cubs and Brewers square off for the next four days starting on Monday. Game one is Ted Lilly versus CC Sabathia (notice, no more C.C., just CC now). The Brewers have already played and won the first two games according to the press in Milwaukee, someone should tell Lou Piniella to just stay in Chicago and wait until Wednesday to play the first game against Manny Para.

Quote of the Day

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