Squeeze-d One Out – Cubs 2 Pirates 0

Game One Hundred Thirty-Three – Cubs 2 Pirates 0
WP – Jason Marquis (9-7) LP – Zach Duke (4-13) Save – Kerry Wood (27)

wflag.jpgLou Piniella’s crew completed the 3-game sweep against the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon behind 7 shutout innings by Jason Marquis. Marquis picked up his third win of the season against the Bucs and gave his skipper a very strong outing on getaway day. The key to Marquis’ success was he kept the ball down and most importantly….he did not issue a single walk. The best inning of the afternoon by Marquis came in the bottom of the 7th after his team handed him a 2-0 lead….a solid shutdown inning.

Carlos Marmol pitched around a lead off walk and struck out the last two batters he faced in the 8th. Kerry Wood picked up his 27th save of the season with a perfect 9th inning. Wood struck out two of the three batters he faced on 10 pitches.

Marquis, Marmol and Wood combined on a 5-hit shutout with only 1 walk and 7 strikeouts.

The Cubs scored 26 runs in the first two games but managed only 2 in the season finale against the Pirates. The Cubs had chances early and put the leadoff runner on base in three of the first 6 innings. Reed Johnson was in the middle of the action once again and his leadoff bunt single in the 7th led to the eventual winning run.

Mark DeRosa followed Johnson with a double to left. Ronny Cedeno hit a slow grounder to 3rd baseman Andy LaRoche and the only play was to first as Johnson broke with contact. DeRosa advanced to 3rd on the play and scored on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Henry Blanco. Hank White popped up the low pitch down the 1st base line, the ball stayed fair and DeRosa scored standing without a throw.

Less than 14 hours after completing a long, ugly game….the Cubs wrapped up the season series with the Pirates (14-4) in just 2 hours and 17 minutes. The Cubs finished an important 9-game stretch against the Reds, Nationals and Pirates with a 7-2 record.

In a season full of ‘firsts‘ and ‘since‘, the Cubs improved to 33 games over .500 for the first time since 1945. The Cubs own a major league best mark of 83-50 as the stretch run begins on Thursday night at Wrigley against the Philadelphia Phillies….

On a daily basis Lou Piniella is receiving contributions from his entire roster, especially the bottom of the lineup. Everyday a different player steps up and helps pickup a win but somehow, some way Reed Johnson seemingly puts himself in the middle of all the action whenever he is in the game….and Wednesday was no different.

Reed Johnson dropped a perfect bunt down the 3rd base line to start the 7th inning on a 2-1 pitch from Zach Duke. Mark DeRosa followed with a double to left….his second hit of the game and extended his hitting streak to 9 games. Ronny Cedeno hit a slow roller down the 3rd base line on a 1-0 pitch. Johnson broke with the pitch and scored as Cedeno was being thrown out at 1st.

Mark DeRosa advanced to 3rd and Lou Piniella called for the squeeze. Henry Blanco popped up the bunt on a low pitch from Duke. The ball fell just out of the pitchers reach and DeRosa scored the Cubs second run.

Other than the second error in as many days by Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs defense was solid….especially Henry Blanco and Ryan Theriot. Jason Marquis did his job and picked up a very important win on the road.

The Cubs open a big 4-game series on Thursday night at Wrigley against the Phillies….and with instant replay. Ryan Dempster will face Cole Hamels in the opener.

The stretch run begins on Thursday night….better fastens those seatbelts.

Quote of the Day

"When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all." – Theodore Roosevelt