Game One Hundred Eleven – Cubs 5 Pirates 1
WP – Ted Lilly (11-6) LP – Paul Maholm (7-7) Save – None
The Chicago Cubs rebounded from Friday’s shutout with a solid win against the new-look Pirates. Lou Piniella’s crew beat Paul Maholm for the first time in his career and in the process became the first Cubs’ team to start the season with a 40-15 record at Wrigley Field.
Ted Lilly struggled with his command in the 2nd inning and after throwing 43 pitches it did not appear Lilly would be long for the game. Lilly settled down and the only run he allowed came on an infield single by Paul Maholm with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the 2nd. Lilly left with 1-out in the 7th and allowed just the 1 run on 6 hits with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. After starting the season 1-4 in his first 6 starts, Lilly is 10-2 in his last 18 dating back to May 3rd.
The Cubs offense received a boost from Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto and Ronny Cedeno. Johnson was in the middle of the action once again and finished the day 3-for-4 with a double, 2 runs scored and a stolen base….he was also caught stealing in the 6th. Johnson scored the go ahead run on a 2-out RBI single in the 2nd by Ronny Cedeno.
Geovany Soto tied the game with a ground out following a lead off double by Aramis Ramirez in the 2nd. Reed Johnson followed Ramirez and lined a single to right that advanced Ramirez to 3rd with the Cubs down 1-0.
Reed Johnson reached and scored in the 4th after a beautiful bunt single to start the inning. Mark DeRosa lined a single to left and with Geovany Soto at the plate, Johnson and DeRosa pulled off a double steal. Soto singled in Johnson and DeRosa scored on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Ronny Cedeno.
The Cubs offense hit into three more double plays on Saturday afternoon. In the last two games, 18 innings, the Cubs have hit into seven twin killings. The Cubs offense out hit the Pirates, 9-8 and walked only 3 times but were able to plate runners in scoring position, unlike Friday.
With the win, the Cubs improved to 21 games over .500 for the second time this season and ended a 3-game losing streak to the Pirates. The Cubs are 10-4 in the first 14 against the Bucs with 4 left to play on the year…. The Cubs continue to receive a solid contribution from Reed Johnson and since the addition of Jim Edmonds, the centerfield position for the Cubs has turned out to be one of the strengths of the team. It appears that both players are constantly in the middle of all the action on a daily basis….and on Saturday it was Reed Johnson’s turn.
Aramis Ramirez led off the 2nd with a hustle double down the left field line on a 0-2 pitch….the first hit allowed by Paul Maholm in the first three innings in his last three starts. Reed Johnson followed with a hard single to right and Mike Quade held Ramirez at 3rd with no outs. Johnson took 2nd on a wild pitch with Mark DeRosa at the plate but DeRosa missed strike three for the first out.
Geovany Soto grounded out to 2nd on a 0-2 pitch, Ramirez scored to tie the game at 1 and Johnson advanced to 3rd. For some reason the Pirates decided to pitch to Ronny Cedeno. Maholm fell behind to Cedeno 3-1 before getting a called strike two. Cedeno then blooped a 3-2 pitch into right that scored Johnson with the go ahead….and eventual winning run.
Reed Johnson jump-started the offense again in the 4th inning with a perfectly placed bunt single down the 1st base line. Mark DeRosa singled to left and Geovany Soto stepped in again with a chance to drive home a run. On a 2-1 pitch to Soto, Lou Piniella called for a double steal….and both Johnson and DeRosa advanced into scoring position with no outs. It was the 19th successful time this season the Cubs had stolen 3rd base.
Soto then singled to right on a 2-2 pitch and plated Johnson with his second RBI of the afternoon. With runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, Ronny Cedeno grounded into a 5-4-3 double play but DeRosa scored on the play to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead.
The Cubs 5th run came in the 5th inning. Alfonso Soriano lined a double down the left field line to start the inning and advanced to 3rd on a ground out up the middle by Ryan Theriot….a productive out. Derrek Lee followed with a sacrifice fly into right center that plated Soriano with another manufactured run.
The Cubs could not add to the lead in the final three innings of the game….
Ted Lilly was very efficient in the 1st inning and retired the Pirates in order on 11 pitches….three fly ball outs. Lilly had a very good rhythm and appeared to be on top of his game, but that all changed in the 2nd inning.
Lilly struggled with his command and threw 43 of his 111 pitches on the afternoon in the 2nd inning. Lilly threw a first pitch strike to only one of the first nine hitters he faced and barely escaped the 2nd inning after allowing only 1 run.
Ryan Doumit led off the 2nd with a double to left. Lilly issued his first free pass to Andy LaRoche but received a gift when Steve Pearce chased strike three on the eighth pitch of the at bat. With runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out, Lilly walked Brandon Moss to load the bases. Chris Gomez struck out on a 2-2 pitch for the second out of the inning.
With the bases loaded and 2 outs, Paul Maholm stepped in and hit a soft liner to the hole at short on the second pitch of the at bat. Ryan Theriot tried to barehand the ball but dropped it and Doumit scored on the infield single. Luis Rivas then struck out on a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.
Lilly labored and bent a little….but never broke in the 2nd inning.
The Cubs defense was solid once again on Saturday. Aramis Ramirez made a great play to take a hit away Steve Pearce in the 6th with Nate McLouth on 1st base and 2 outs. Lilly righted the proverbial ship and after retiring the Bucs in order in the 5th on 8 pitches, worked around a single by McLouth in the 6th and was lifted in the 7th with 1-out and a runner on 1st.
Chad Gaudin retired the two batters he faced in the 7th and Bobby Howry worked a scoreless 8th. Howry gave up 2 hits, a single to Jack Wilson and a double to Ryan Doumit but worked around the 1-out jam. Andy LaRoche tapped back to the mound for the second out and Steve Pearce fouled out to Geovany Soto to end the inning….stranding runners on 2nd and 3rd in a 5-1 game.
Carlos Marmol struck out 2 of the 4 batters he faced in the 9th and worked around a 2-out walk to Jason Michaels. Marmol was very good but he must not let up until the last out of the inning is recorded.
Saturday afternoon at the old ballpark was not filled with home runs or extra base hits or dominating pitching performances it was just a win in the second game of August for a team in search of a division title….
Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face Ian Snell in game three on Sunday afternoon with a chance to win the series and finish the week on a positive note.