Beautifully Zugly – Cubs 14 Pirates 9

Game One Hundred Thirty-Two – Cubs 14 Pirates 9
WP – Sean Marshall (3-3) LP – Craig Hansen (1-5, BS 3) Save – None

wflag.jpgThere is no such thing in baseball as a bad win, but there are ugly ones and if there could be only one word used to describe Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates it would be….U-G-L-Y. Lou Piniella used his entire bench and all but Bobby Howry out of the pen after Carlos Zambrano was lifted with 1-out in the 5th inning. The Cubs scored 14 runs on 13 hits with 9 walks and while the Cubs never stopped battling and it was a team win….the night belonged to Geovany Soto.

The Cubs’ rookie catcher drove in half of the 14 runs with a career high 7 RBI’s. Soto hit two bases clearing doubles and his 20th home run of the season in the 6th inning. Soto set a new franchise mark for home runs by a rookie catcher and became the first Cubs’ rookie since Billy Williams in 1961 to hit 20 long balls in his first big league season….the Hall of Famer hit 25 home runs 47 years ago.

The difference in the game was the Cubs’ patience at the plate. The Cubs trailed 8-7 entering the 8th and Mike Fontenot led off the inning with a check swing single to center. Alfonso Soriano blooped a single to right and Ryan Theriot walked to load the bases. Derrek Lee walked with the bases loaded and plated Mike Fontenot with the tying run. Aramis Ramirez followed with a 4-pitch walk that forced in Alfonso Soriano from 3rd with the go ahead run. Reed Johnson added a RBI single and Geovany Soto came through with a 2-out, bases clearing double. Fontenot followed with a double that plated Soto with the Cubs’ 14th run of the game.

The Cubs defense was very questionable to say the least and they committed three big errors on the night. Carlos Zambrano had a wild pickoff attempt in the 1st inning. Aramis Ramirez committed a throwing error in the 3rd and Alfonso Soriano dropped a routine fly in the 6th. Soriano did not lose this one in the sun and right after he hopped, he dropped the ball.

The defensive highlight of the game came in the 5th inning when Kosuke Fukudome threw out Brandon Moss trying to go from 1st to 3rd on a single by Doug Mientkiewicz.

Carlos Zambrano struggled mightily once again and left the game before the end of the 5th inning for the second time in his last four starts. Zambrano could not control himself or the ball, ran up his pitch count and then beat up another cooler on his way out of the game. Zambrano allowed 6 runs on 8 hits with 4 walks and 3 strikeouts. Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild must get him back on track….his last good outing was on July 29th in Milwaukee. Zambrano has not recorded a 1-2-3 inning in his last two starts….but he keeps on hitting.

Carlos Zambrano drove in a run with a single in the 4th inning. Zambrano set the All-Time Major League record with his 13th consecutive start with a hit and broke the record of 12 set by Johnny Sain in 1947. Big Z has recorded at least one RBI in his last 8 starts.

The Cubs’ bullpen did a good job on an extremely weird night in Pittsburgh. Six pitchers allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, on 7 hits with 1 walk and 7 strikeouts. Sean Marshall picked up the win with a scoreless 7th and Carlos Marmol was the only Cubs’ pitcher to retire the side in order. Kerry Wood allowed a run on two doubles but struck out the side in the 9th.

With the win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night the Cubs notched several notable accomplishments…. The Cubs have won 9 consecutive series of at least 2 games for the first time since they won 10 in a row 101 years ago….1907. Lou Piniella’s crew improved to a season high 32 games over .500…. the last time the Cubs were 32 games over .500 was September 15, 1984. The Cubs also became the first team to post the 82nd win of the year and guarantee themselves a winning record in back-to-back seasons for only the second time in 35 years (2003-2004).

Tuesday night was anything but a pitcher’s duel and was a truly sloppy game from both sides. The two teams combined for 23 runs on 28 hits with 3 errors, 14 walks, 17 strikeouts, 3 wild pitches, a passed ball, a hit batsman and 383 pitches….173 by the Cubs’ staff.

Here’s all of the scoring by inning:

Bottom of the 1st….Nyjer Morgan reached on a wild pitch on a swinging strikeout. Morgan stole 2nd and Zambrano walked Nate McLouth. Ryan Doumit flied out to left for the first out. Zambrano tried to pickoff Morgan from 2nd, threw the ball into center and both runners advanced. Adam LaRoche then plated both runners with a double to right center….2-0 Pirates. Brandon Moss singled. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Doug Mientkiewicz flied out to left. Freddy Sanchez singled to center to plate LaRoche….3-0 Pirates.

Top of the 3rd….Alfonso Soriano doubled down the right field line to start the inning. Brandon Moss tried to make a diving catch but came up short. Ryan Theriot advanced Soriano to 3rd with a ground out to 1st. Derrek Lee drove in Soriano with a ground out to short….3-1 Pirates.

Top of the 4th….Like many Cubs’ rallies of late, it was started with a walk. Jim Edmonds walked and Mark DeRosa blooped a single into left center. Kosuke Fukudome walked to load the bases. Geovany Soto then doubled to right to clear the bases. Carlos Zambrano singled to left to drive in Soto….5-3 Cubs.

Bottom of the 4th….Luis Rivas hit for Ian Snell and blooped a single into left center. Nyjer Morgan popped out a bunt attempt and with McLouth at the dish, Rivas stole 2nd. McLouth tapped back to Zambrano but Ryan Doumit singled to right center. Rivas scored….5-4 Cubs.

Top of the 5th….Derrek Lee led off with a bloop single to right. Aramis Ramirez struck out and with Jim Edmonds at the plate, Lee stole 2nd….his 8th of the season. Edmonds struck out but Mark DeRosa doubled to right center to plate Lee….6-4 Cubs.

Bottom of the 5th….Brandon Moss singled to right to start the inning. Doug Mientkiewicz then singled to right. Moss tried to advance to 3rd but was thrown out by Kosuke Fukudome. The low throw froze Mientkiewicz and he was unable to advance. Freddy Sanchez walked and Piniella made the slow walk. Zambrano was left in to face Jack Wilson and he doubled to right. Mientkiewicz scored, 6-5 Cubs. Piniella made the walk again and brought in Jeff Samardzija.

The Shark induced a groundout to short by Jason Michaels but Freddy Sanchez scored to tie the game. Wilson was caught in a run down between 2nd and 3rd for the second out of the inning. Nyjer Morgan followed with a single to right. Piniella brought in Neal Cotts to face Nate McLouth and he grounded out to Derrek Lee to end the inning….tied at 6 at the end of 5.

Top of the 6th….Geovany Soto led off the inning with his 20th home run of the season….7-6 Cubs.

Bottom of the 6th….Ryan Doumit led off with a single to center off of Neal Cotts. Adam LaRoche followed with a lazy fly ball to left. Alfonso Soriano hopped, then the ball fell out of his glove. With runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs, Mike Fontenot robbed Brandon Moss of a single to right….both runners advanced. Doug Mientkiewicz followed with a triple to right on the first pitch from Cotts. Doumit and LaRoche scored, 8-7 Pirates.

Freddy Sanchez was intentionally walked and Piniella brought in Chad Gaudin. The Pirates tried the safety squeeze but Jack Wilson popped up the bunt and Andy LaRoche struck out to end the inning.

Top of the 8th….Mike Fontenot led off with a single to center on a check swing. Craig Hansen replaced John Grabow. Alfonso Soriano blooped a single to right, Fontenot advanced to 3rd. Ryan Theriot worked a walk to load the bases. With the tying run at 3rd, Derrek Lee walked to force in Fontenot….game tied at 8.

Aramis Ramirez walked on 4 pitches to force in Soriano with the Cubs’ 9th run….the eventual game winner. Sean Burnett replaced Craig Hansen. Reed Johnson followed with a single to right. The Cubs went station to station, Theriot scored….10-8 Cubs. Henry Blanco hit for Sean Marshall and flied out to shallow right….Lee had to hold. Kosuke Fukudome struck out swinging for the second out.

Geovany Soto then doubled off the wall in right center. Lee, Ramirez and Johnson scored, 13-8 Cubs. Mike Fontenot then came through with his second hit of the inning….a double to right that plated Soto with the Cubs’ 14th run of the game.

Bottom of the 9th….Kerry Wood gave up back-to-back doubles to Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson….14-9 Cubs. Wood struck out Chris Gomez for the first out. Nyjer Morgan then grounded to Derrek Lee but Wood was late breaking to 1st….infield single. Morgan stole 2nd with Nate McLouth at the plate. McLouth then struck out swinging and Wood struck out Ryan Doumit swinging for the 27th out.

A wild, wild night indeed!

The Cubs won a game they needed to win, now the goal must be to get their ace back on track….or push his next start to September 1st.

Jason Marquis will face Zach Duke in the season and series finale with the Pirates on Wednesday morning….

Quote of the Day

"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run." - Babe Ruth