Piniella’s March Through Atlanta – Cubs 11 Braves 7

Game One Hundred Twenty-One – Cubs 11 Braves 7
WP – Ted Lilly (12-6) LP – Tom Glavine (2-4) Save – None

wflag.jpgA wild, wild night in Hotlanta…. A little bit of history, a cycle, a lot of hits and runs, a concerning injury to one of the ‘Big Three‘ and a benches clearing discussion between Ted Lilly and Yunel Escobar were only a few of the storylines on Thursday night at Turner Field. Lou Piniella’s crew completed the first ever season sweep of the Braves’ franchise with another huge offensive explosion. The Cubs scored 11 more runs in the finale with five of the runs coming off two swings of the bat by Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano. Geovany Soto drove in 2 more runs to go along with 3 walks and 6 of the Cubs’ 14 hits went for extra bases….two home runs and four doubles. The Cubs outscored the Braves 29-9 in the 3-game series with only 4 home runs and a ton of patience at the plate.

Aramis Ramirez left the game in the 5th inning after an awkward headfirst slide into home plate. Reports during the game indicated Ramirez departed with a left hip contusion and his status is listed as day to day.

Ted Lilly left after completing 6 innings and allowing 4 runs on 8 hits with 8 strikeouts and a walk. Lilly clearly did not have his best stuff and did not leave without responding to the message the Braves sent Alfonso Soriano on Wednesday night. Lilly plunked Yunel Escobar on the elbow in the 6th with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd in a 9-4 game. Escobar took exception to being hit, pointed at Lilly and was restrained by Geovany Soto. The benches and the bullpens emptied but no one was ejected and no punches were thrown. Once the smoke cleared, Lilly was warned and he struck out Martin Prado to end the inning and his night.

Mark Kotsay became only the second player in the history of the Atlanta Braves to hit for the cycle on Thursday night. Kotsay actually recorded the third 5-hit game of his career in the loss. The last Brave to hit for the cycle was Albert Hall in 1987…it was the sixth cycle in the history of the Braves’ organization.

With the win, the Cubs improved to 27 games over .500 for the first time this season and won their 8th in a row on the road for the first time since 1945….

The Cubs road struggles feel like a distant memory after the last 8 games. They are within a game of the break even point (29-30) away from Wrigley and did not appear to let off the proverbial peddle throughout the entire series against the Braves. While Bobby Howry’s struggles made the finale of the series closer than it needed to be, a sweep on the road in Atlanta is never an easy task….

The Cubs came out swinging against Tom Glavine, in what was likely the last time the future Hall of Famer will ever face the Cubs, and chased him after only 4 innings. Glavine struggled with his command and was not getting the outside strike that he has built a career around.

Kosuke Fukudome started the scoring in the 1st inning with a 1-out liner to center on the first pitch he saw from Glavine. Derrek Lee worked the count to 2-1 before doubling to right. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Glavine intentionally walked Aramis Ramirez to load the bases. Reed Johnson was right in the middle of the action once again.

Johnson looked at the first two pitches out of the strike zone from Glavine, took strike one then singled to center to plate Fukudome. Geovany Soto showed a lot of patience with the bases loaded and walked to force in Lee with the Cubs’ second run. Mark DeRosa, however, bailed Glavine out of trouble. DeRosa hit into a 6-4-3 inning ending double play on 3-1 pitch from Glavine….

After Ryan Theriot was picked off to end the 2nd inning, Kosuke Fukudome led off the 3rd with a single to right….on the first pitch of the at bat. Derrek Lee followed with a single to right center and Glavine had to pitch to Aramis Ramirez.

On a 2-1 pitch from Glavine, Aramis Ramirez gave the Cubs a 5-1 lead with his 20th home run of the season. Ramirez hit a bomb into right center and his 3-run shot put him in rare company. Ramirez became the first Cub since Hack Wilson (streak ended in 1930) to record at least 20 home runs and 30 doubles in 5 consecutive seasons.

The Cubs kept tacking on in the 4th. Ryan Theriot walked to start the inning and Ted Lilly sacrificed him to 2nd. Alfonso Soriano stepped in an launched a 1-2 pitch from Glavine over the wall in left….for the record, Soriano jogged around the bases.

Buddy Carlyle replaced Glavine in the 5th and gave up a lead off single to Aramis Ramirez. Reed Johnson tapped out to 1st and Ramirez advanced to 2nd on the play. Geovany Soto followed and hit a high pop up into center. Mark Kotsay lost the ball and Ramirez tried to score on what was ruled a double. Ramirez slid into home head first to try to avoid the tag from Clint Sammons. It was not a textbook slide and Ramirez grabbed his back as he remained on the ground. Ramirez left under his own power but was replaced at 3rd by Mark DeRosa in the bottom of the 5th.

Geovany Soto advanced to 3rd on the throw to the plate and scored on a single to left, with the infield in, by Mark DeRosa. Ryan Theriot singled to right and Lilly sacrificed both runners into scoring position (after failing to get the bunt down in the 2nd inning, Lilly completed back-to-back sacrifice bunts in his final two at bats). The Braves intentionally walked Alfonso Soriano to load the bases with 2 outs. Fukudome hit a grounder up the middle that hit Carlyle and Kosuke was thrown out at 1st to end the inning.

The Cubs added two more important runs in the 7th after a leadoff walk by Geovany Soto. Mark DeRosa hit a double off the wall in center and Soto scored on a single to right by Ryan Theriot….his 47th multi-hit game of the season. With runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, Daryle Ward pinch hit for Ted Lilly and hit a sacrifice fly to right center that scored DeRosa with the Cubs 11th, and final run….the score was 11-4 going into the bottom of the 7th.

Ted Lilly joined Carlos Zambrano for the second most wins on the Cubs’ staff with his 12th of the year on a night he struggled with his command. Lilly was lights out early but after a bare-hand pickup of a bunt attempt by Omar Infante to start the 2nd inning was not the same. Jeff Francoeur had a big night and reached on a 2-out single to center….the first of the night for the Braves. Mark Kotsay started his cycle with a triple to right that plated Francoeur….2-1 Cubs.

Lilly then issued back-to-back 2-out walks to Clint Sammons and Tom Glavine to load the bases. After a visit from Larry Rothschild, Lilly struck out Yunel Escobar on 4 pitches to end the inning.

Lilly gave up another run in the 3rd after a lead off double by Martin Prado and a single to center by Chipper Jones.

The Braves cut the Cubs lead to 7-4 in the 4th after a leadoff home run by Mark Kotsay and a 2-out single to center by Yunel Escobar….that barely missed taking the head off of Ted Lilly. Martin Prado followed with a double to right center that plated Escobar with the Braves’ fourth run.

Bobby Howry took the mound in the 7th with an 11-4 lead. Howry struck out Chipper Jones looking on a 3-2 pitch then gave up back-to-back singles to Omar Infante and Casey Kotchman. Jeff Francoeur followed and hit his first home run since July 9th….

Howry gave up the double to Mark Kotsay to complete the cycle and after a fly out to left by Clint Sammons, Piniella lifted Howry for Carlos Marmol.

Marmol was plain nasty. He struck out Kelly Johnson on 3 pitches to end the inning, then retired the Braves in order in the 8th….it was Marmol’s first appearance of the series and the rest showed.

Kerry Wood sat down the first two batters he faced in the 9th but a 2-out single by Jeff Francoeur on a 3-2 pitch extended the inning. Mark Kotsay recorded his 5th hit of the game and with runners on 1st and 2nd, and Brian McCann in the on-deck circle, Wood struck out Clint Sammons looking to end the game.

The 3-game sweep was a good way to start the difficult trip and hopefully it did not come at too big of a price….

The Cubs will try to end their drought in Florida on Friday night. The Cubs kickoff a 3-game series against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium….a place the Cubs have not posted a win at since 2005. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face Josh Johnson in the opener.

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes you have to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting and just have faith that things will work out." - Steve Jobs
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