A Defensive Thriller – Cubs 3 Cardinals 2

Game One Hundred Sixteen – Cubs 3 Cardinals 2 – 11 innings
WP – Bobby Howry (5-4) LP – Ryan Franklin (4-5) Save – None

wflag.jpgIt doesn’t get much better than Friday afternoon at the old ballpark on Clark and Addison….the Cubs and Cardinals in extra innings with Lou Piniella’s crew coming out on top. Friday afternoon was another team-win as the Cubs improved to 24 games over .500 for the first time since last game of the 1989 season. Jim Edmonds supplied the power and the only two runs for the Cubs in the first 10 innings of the game. And not only did Edmonds comeback to haunt his former team and manager, the one-time Redbird gave a curtain call at Wrigley Field….for once and for all, Jim Edmonds is a Chicago Cub.

Jim Edmonds was also in the mix defensively, making one of the several highlight plays turned in by the Cubs’ defense. Alfonso Soriano made his 6th outfield assist of the season when he threw out Joe Mather in the 6th inning, with the Cubs down 2-1, trying to score from 3rd on a fly ball by Troy Glaus. Mark DeRosa saved a run in the 9th with a bare-hand pick up of a bunt by Skip Schumaker and barely nipping the Cardinals outfielder at 1st as Cesar Izturis was scoring the would-be go ahead run. But the turning point in the game came courtesy of Geovany Soto in the 5th inning.

Cesar Izturis doubled and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Jim Edmonds. With 1 out and the game tied at one, Tony LaRussa called for the squeeze play with Braden Looper at the plate, but Ted Lilly threw the ball low and inside, Soto picked it out of the dirt and tagged Izturis for the second out of the inning.

Jim Edmonds hit two home runs, one to right in the 2nd inning that included a bat toss towards the visitors’ dugout and one to left in the 7th inning, against his former team…..his 13th and 14th in a Cubs’ uniform. Edmonds’ second of the day tied the game and setup the walkoff single by Henry Blanco in the 11th.

For the third time on the current homestand, the Cubs winning rally began with a walk. Derrek Lee worked the Cubs second free pass of the game to start the 11th inning. Aramis Ramirez worked the count to 3-2 and with Lee running with the pitch, lined a single to right. Lee advanced to 3rd on the play. Tony LaRussa intentionally walked Kosuke Fukudome to load the bases….with no outs.

Geovany Soto was lifted for a pinch runner in the bottom of the 9th after a 1-out single to center. Henry Blanco replaced him behind the plate in the top of the 10th and stepped in with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 11th after Tony LaRussa brought his infield and outfield in. Ryan Franklin threw strike one to Blanco, then Hank White ripped a single into left center past a diving Cesar Izturis, Lee scored the winning run and Blanco was mobbed by his teammates near the mound.

Ted Lilly turned in another solid start. Lilly made only one mistake in 7 1/3 innings, a solo home run by Joe Mather in the 3rd inning. The defense helped Lilly work his way out of the trouble he created. Lilly allowed 2 runs on 7 hits with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. With the go ahead run on 1st, Carlos Marmol closed out the 8th by retiring Albert Pujols on a fly out to right and after an intentional walk to Ryan Ludwick, Marmol struck out Troy Glaus swinging on a 3-2 pitch.

Jeff Samardzija pitched two scoreless innings and allowed only 1 hit….to Albert Pujols in the 10th. The Shark showed a lot of poise when Pujols tried to steal 2nd. Pujols left just a little early, and the rookie calmly stepped off the mound and threw out Pujols at 2nd base. Bobby Howry faced the minimum in the 11th with 2 strikeouts and more than earned his 5th win of the season.

Friday’s victory was the Cubs’ 70th of the season and 44th of the year at Wrigley Field. The Cubs posted their 70th win a year ago in a 6-5 victory over the Astros on September 2nd and the 44 wins equals the home win total from the 2007 season.

Pitching and defense, they say, wins championships and for one day in early August at Wrigley, the Cubs pitching and defense won an important game against their biggest rival. Ted Lilly, Carlos Marmol, Jeff Samardzija and Bobby Howry gave up 2 runs on 8 hits with 8 strikeouts and 4 walks in 11 innings….and the defense made every play possible to give the offense time to win the game.

The Cardinals’ first run came in 3rd inning with 2 outs. Lilly quickly got ahead of Joe Mather, 0-2, before hanging a curve and paying the price. Mather tied up the game but Lilly recovered and allowed only one other run.

Lilly started falling behind hitters in the 6th. He gave up a lead off single to Skip Schumaker and then a single to left center by Joe Mather. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs, Adam Kennedy grounded out to Mark DeRosa for the first out of the inning. Schumaker scored to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.

Lilly intentionally walked Albert Pujols and unintentionally walked Ryan Ludwick to load the bases. Troy Glaus stepped in and hit what appeared to be a sacrifice fly to left on a 1-0 pitch but Alfonso Soriano threw a one-hop strike to the plate….and nailed Mather at home to end the inning.

Jim Edmonds robbed Yadier Molina of a bloop single to start the 7th with a diving catch in left center and Lilly worked around a single by Cesar Izturis (the former Cub who had trouble reaching base during his time in Chicago, was 2-for-3 with a walk).

Jeff Samardzija worked around a 1-out walk and two stolen bases by Izturis in the 9th and showed a lot of poise on the mound in the 10th when he calmly stepped off the rubber and threw out Albert Pujols trying to advance to 2nd….

While the Cubs offense was pretty much a no show against Braden Looper, the Cubs hit when it mattered most on Friday, especially Jim Edmonds, and picked up a big win against Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Carlos Zambrano will face Todd Wellemeyer in the second game of the series Saturday afternoon on FOX.

Quote of the Day

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