Reed All Z ‘Bout It – Cubs 8 Pirates 5

Game One Hundred Twelve – Cubs 8 Pirates 5
WP – Chad Gaudin (8-4, 3-1, BS 1) LP – Craig Hansen (1-4, 0-1) Save – Carlos Marmol (6)

wflag.jpgWhat a week for the Chicago Cubs! After a come from behind win last Sunday against the Marlins, the Cubs swept the 4-game series in Milwaukee and suffered a letdown on Friday against the Pirates. The Cubs manufactured a win on Saturday and then saved the dramatics for Sunday afternoon.

Carlos Zambrano was inline for his 13th win of the season until the 8th inning. Big Z pitched a good game but was pulled at the beginning of the 6th after throwing 82 pitches. Reports indicated Lou Piniella had planned to limit Zambrano’s pitch count after throwing 125 against the Marlins and 118 against the Brewers. Zambrano turned the game over to the pen and Jeff Samardzija threw 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball and allowed only a hit, a walk and a strikeout.

Neal Cotts gave up a 1-out double to Doug Mientkiewicz in the 8th and after a wild pitch advanced him to 3rd, Nate McLouth fouled out to Aramis Ramirez for the second out. Ryan Doumit had a huge weekend at Wrigley and capped it off with a 2-out RBI single to right on the first pitch from Cotts. Chad Gaudin replaced Cotts and gave up a game tying 2-run homer to Andy LaRoche….his first as a Pirate.

With the game tied at 5 in the bottom of the 8th, Craig Hansen retired both Mark DeRosa and Jim Edmonds with ease on 6 pitches.

Geovany Soto had a huge day at the plate, 2-for-3 with a double, 2 runs scored, 2 RBI’s and a walk, but it was his 2-out walk in the 8th that ended up being the difference.

After Soto drew the 2-out walk, Lou Piniella sent Daryle Ward to the plate to face Craig Hansen. Pirates’ manager John Russell countered with lefty Sean Burnett to face Ward but Piniella went back to his bench for Reed Johnson.

Johnson fouled off the first pitch from Burnett….then swung and missed at the second offering, the next one Johnson did not miss. Here was how Pat Hughes called it….

“Pitch hit in the air, deep left field, it’s gotta chance….GONE! Reed Johnson with a pinch-hit, go ahead, tie breaking, two-run homer to left center.”

Reed Johnson drilled the next pitch into the bleachers in left center that gave the Cubs a 2-run lead. Johnson lifted his hand as the ball was leaving the park and made a curtain call at the request of the 41,200 fans in attendance at the old ballpark. Not to be outdone, Alfonso Soriano followed with his 19th home run of the year on a 1-2 pitch from Burnett….back-to-back jacks in the 8th gave the Cubs their 41st win of the year at Wrigley.

With the win the Cubs improved to 22 games over .500 for the first time this season and for the first time since the end of the 1989 season when the Cubs finished 24 games over the .500 mark.

The Cubs turned in a solid performance until the 8th inning on Sunday, despite committing their first error in 8 games that led to an unearned run for the Pirates in the 1st inning. The Cubs defense stepped up after the 1st inning and the offense came up with several clutch hits once again. The big question mark came in the 6th when Lou Piniella allowed Carlos Zambrano to take the hill but pulled him before he could throw his first pitch. Piniella brought in Jeff Samardzija and Zambrano clarified after the game that it was his idea to limit his pitch count following a string of long outings. Zambrano did his part both on the mound and at the plate.

Carlos Zambrano had a rough start to the day before shutting the door on the Pirates offense. Zambrano issued a 2-out walk to Nate McLouth in the 1st inning and Ryan Doumit followed with a bloop single to left. Alfonso Soriano misplayed the bounce and as it rolled past him, McLouth scored all the way from 1st base. Doumit ended up at 2nd and the Pirates scored an unearned run after the error by Soriano.

The Pirates added to the lead in the 2nd after Brandon Moss led off the inning with his first home run as a Pirate to straight away center. Zambrano started to ‘lose it‘ and gave up a single to Steve Peace following the home run….but that was it. Zambrano started throwing strikes and retired the last 12 batters he faced.

Z left after 82 pitches and 5 innings of work and allowed 2 runs, 1 earned, on 3 hits with a walk and 2 strikeouts.

Jeff Samardzija replaced Zambrano and retired the first 5 batters he faced before giving up a 2-out single to Steve Pearce in the 7th inning. The Shark walked Jack Wilson but retired Jason Michaels to end the inning. Samardzija retired Luis Rivas to start the 8th on a ground out to short before being lifted for Neal Cotts.

Cotts gave up a double to Doug Mientkiewicz on a 2-2 pitch and then uncorked a wild pitch with Nate McLouth at the plate. Mientkiewicz advanced to 3rd with the Cubs up by 3 and Cotts caught a break when McLouth popped out to Aramis Ramirez in foul ground on a 2-1 pitch. Ryan Doumit followed and ripped the first pitch into right that cut the Cubs lead to 5-3.

Chad Gaudin replaced Cotts and left one up in the zone on a 3-2 pitch to Andy LaRoche….LaRoche tied the game with his first home run since coming to the Pirates in the Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay deal. Gaudin walked Brandon Moss but settled down and struck out Steve Pearce swinging to end the inning.

Carlos Marmol retired the Pirates in order in the 9th on 15 pitches….and the 27th out was recorded by Reed Johnson on a fly out to left by Luis Rivas.

The Cubs tied the game in the 2nd inning after a single to center on the 8th pitch of the at bat by Mark DeRosa. DeRosa advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch with Jim Edmonds at the plate. Edmonds eventually walked and Geovany Soto followed with a single to right. DeRosa scored and Edmonds advanced to 3rd on the play.

Carlos Zambrano grounded into the Cubs 8th double play of the series (they would add one in the 7th and finished with 9 in the 3-game series). Edmonds scored on the 5-4-3 double play to tie the game at 2.

In the 4th the Cubs accomplished a rare feat….three straight doubles from the 7th, 8th and 9th spots in the lineup. Jim Edmonds received a gift when Brandon Moss, in his first series at Wrigley, misplayed the towering fly ball to left, the ball landed just over his head and Edmonds trotted into 2nd. Geovany Soto followed and ripped the first pitch from Ian Snell into right center to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.

Carlos Zambrano got into the act with his 4th double of the year down the right field line. Soto scored and the Cubs were up 4-2.

Aramis Ramirez added his 19th long ball of the year to start the 5th off of T.J. Beam that gave the Cubs what appeared to be a comfortable 5-2 lead. But the Cubs were unable to tack on and setup the 8th inning comeback off of Neal Cotts and Chad Gaudin.

While Sunday was not a textbook win, it was a game that the Cubs must win at home against a team with a losing record. The Pirates always give the Cubs all they can handle and Lou Piniella’s crew must realize that every team will give them their best effort for the remainder of the season….and the Cubs must be able to do the same on a daily basis.

Ryan Dempster is scheduled to face Brain Moehler in the first of three against the Astros on Monday night. Houston is red hot right now and they feel they still have a chance to make the post season. If the Cubs take them for granted the Astros will win a series on the road against a division rival….the same way they did last weekend in Milwaukee.

Quote of the Day

"Baseball, just a game as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes." - Ernie Harwell
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