A Nice High Harden – Cubs 5 Reds 0

Game One Hundred Twenty-Five – Cubs 5 Reds 0
WP – Rich Harden (8-2, 3-1) LP – Johnny Cueto (8-12) Save – None

wflag.jpgRich Harden went back to doing what he does best on Tuesday night and that is strikeout a lot of batters. For the 4th time in a Cubs’ uniform Harden struck out 10, including 6 of the first 10 batters he faced, and allowed only 2 hits without a walk in 7 electric innings for his first win at Wrigley. Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood helped complete the Cubs’ second shutout in a week and the three pitchers allowed only 3 hits without a walk and 13 strikeouts.

Johnny Cueto matched Harden pitch for pitch and the game was much closer than the final score indicates. Cueto allowed only 1 run on 4 hits in 7 innings and the score was 1-0 before the Cubs broke the game open in the bottom of the 8th.

Rich Harden not only did it on the mound, he also recorded his first career RBI in the 5th inning. After a leadoff triple by Geovany Soto and a walk by Kosuke Fukudome, Mark DeRosa struck out and Rich Harden was sent to the plate to sacrifice Fukudome to 2nd base. Harden placed the bunt down the 3rd base line and when Edwin Encarnacion threw to Joey Votto at 1st base, Soto broke for the plate and scored on a bad throw by Votto….just an incredibly smart baserunning play.

The Cubs scored 4 runs in the 8th off the Reds bullpen. Derrek Lee drove in the Cubs second run after Alfonso Soriano ran through Mike Quade’s stop sign. Aramis Ramirez doubled in Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome drove in the final two runs with a single to center.

The Cubs defense turned in several solid plays and helped Harden simply dominate the Reds.

With the win Lou Piniella’s crew improved to 29 games over .500 for the first time this season and improved to 77-48 on the year….tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the best mark in the majors. Tuesday night was all about Rich Harden. Not only was he nasty, but he was efficient and completed 7 innings of work for the third time since making his Cub debut on July 12th. The key was….no walks. Harden threw 94 pitches in 7 innings and for only the second time as a Cub he did not issue a free pass.

The Cubs offense managed only 4 hits off of Johnny Cueto in the first 7 innings, all extra base hits….3 doubles and a triple, but could plate only the one run.

In a scoreless game, Geovany Soto led off the 5th with a triple to right center. Soto ripped a 2-2 pitch from Cueto into right center that went off the heal of the glove of a diving Corey Patterson. Soto hustled out of the box and beat the relay throw. Kosuke Fukudome walked and it looked like the Cubs were in good shape to break through against Cueto.

Mark DeRosa struck out on a 3-2 pitch from Cueto and with the former American League pitcher coming to the plate, it appeared it would be up to Alfonso Soriano to cash in the lead off triple. But Harden laid down the bunt toward 3rd perfectly and as Edwin Encarnacion went down the line to get the ball, so did Geovany Soto.

Soto crept down the line and once Encarnacion threw the ball to 1st, Soto broke for the plate and scored on the throwing error by Joey Votto.

Once Dusty Baker went to his pen, the Cubs gave themselves a little breathing room. Alfonso Soriano made up for being picked off 1st base for the second time in as many games with a single to left to start the 8th. Ryan Theriot attempted to sacrifice him to 2nd base, but Joey Votto made another rookie mistake.

Votto tried to throw out Soriano at 2nd after picking up the bunt from Theriot. His throw pulled Jeff Keppinger off the bag and opened the door to the big inning. Derrek Lee followed with a single to right center. Soriano ran through Mike Quade’s stop sign and slid across home plate with the Cubs second run of the game.

Aramis Ramirez stepped in and doubled to the corner in left, Ryan Theriot scored and the Cubs were up by a 3-0 score. Baker went to his pen again and brought in lefty Bill Bray to face Jim Edmonds. Lou Piniella countered with Reed Johnson with runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs.

Bray struck out Johnson and intentionally walked Geovany Soto to face Kosuke Fukudome. Fukudome put together an impressive at bat and on the 8th pitch singled to center and drove in Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez with the Cubs final runs of the game.

Tuesday night was a big win for the Cubs, not only did they start off the homestand on a winning note, but they picked up a game on both Milwaukee and St. Louis in the standings.

Ted Lilly is scheduled to face Bronson Arroyo on Wednesday under the lights in game two of the series….