Game One Hundred Twenty-Seven – Cubs 3 Reds 2
WP – Carlos Zambrano (13-5) LP – Josh Fogg (2-6) Save – Kerry Wood (26)
Carlos Zambrano and his emotions were on full display Thursday afternoon and finally someone was able to get through to him….Big Z. Zambrano struggled with his command in the 1st inning and after escaping the opening frame without allowing a run, Zambrano voiced his displeasure to himself, and while the control of his pitches showed little improvement in 7 innings, at least Zambrano was able to compose himself long enough to pick up his 13th win of the season….and his first victory in the month of August since 2006.
Zambrano allowed only 1 run, Jay Bruce’s first home run at Wrigley, on 6 hits with 4 walks and 4 strikeouts but did not record a 1-2-3 inning. The Cubs defense was solid once again, especially Mark DeRosa and Henry Blanco threw out two of the three Reds that attempted to swipe 2nd base….including Corey Patterson for the first out in the 7th with his team down by two and Paul Bako at the plate with a 1-0 count.
Carlos Marmol gave up his first run of the second half, a solo home run to Joey Votto in the 8th that cut the Cubs’ lead to 3-2. The monster shot that landed onto Sheffield was the rookie’s 15th of the year, 7th of the season against Cubs’ pitching. Kerry Wood retired the Reds in order in the 9th, including striking out an old nemesis in Javier Valentin looking to end the game.
The Cubs offense did little in the 3-game series against Reds’ pitching and continued to struggle on Thursday. They did just enough to win the game but the eventual winning run scored on a double play ball off the bat of Derrek Lee. Mark DeRosa hit his 15th long ball of the season in the 2nd inning and the difference in the game was the 4th home run of the year by Carlos Zambrano. Big Z gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead with the 16th homer of his career in the 3rd inning. Like Wednesday night the Cubs offense could not tack on and while the Cubs led from the 1st inning on, it never felt like the Cubs were in control of the game.
Ron Santo kept repeating during the 7th inning “I’m a little nervous about this game” and there was reason for his concern. While the Cubs won the game and their 7th series in a row, they appeared to let off the proverbial gas during this series, a subject that was discussed by Lou Piniella in his post-game press conference.
Thursday was a good win against a division rival but one that was much closer than it needed to be.
With the win the Cubs became the first team in the majors to post their 78th victory of the season, improved to 18-19 in 1-run games and for the second time this year Lou Piniella’s crew is 29 games over .500…. Pitching and defense may win championships but for the last three games the Cubs’ defense and pitching was the difference in taking 2 of 3 from the Cincinnati Reds. With the Cubs’ offense in a slump, the pitching staff allowed 4 runs in 3 games and only 1 run was scored off the Cubs’ bullpen. Even with Carlos Zambrano struggling with himself and his command, he was still good enough to pick up a win.
Carlos Zambrano made an interesting statement following Thursday’s win. Zambrano said, “I would rather have people go out there and hit home runs than walk somebody.” And while walks may be infuriating, at least they do not give the opposition an immediate run. While the comment is a little concerning, it might be just as confusing.
The Cubs first run came after a lead off walk by Alfonso Soriano. Ryan Theriot worked the count to 3-2 and with Soriano running, Theriot singled to center. With runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, Derrek Lee stepped in and hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Soriano scored but the thoughts of a big inning were dashed on the ground ball off the bat of Lee.
The offense managed only 3 more hits after Zambrano’s home run in the 3rd and hit into two more double plays. The Cubs inability to tack on runs allowed the Reds to stick around and they almost made another comeback at Wrigley.
The Cubs received a big break in the 7th inning from a familiar face. Corey Patterson led off the inning with a walk and for some reason tried to steal second with his team down by 2 and no outs late in the game….and on the road. Henry Blanco made a very strong throw to cut down Patterson. What makes that an interesting decision to say the least is that Paul Bako followed with a single to right on the next pitch from Zambrano. With 2 outs Chris Dickerson singled to left….
Lou Piniella must kick his offense into gear. After a lackluster performance over the past three games there are six more left with two teams very similar to the Cincinnati Reds.
Jason Marquis is scheduled to face John Lannan in the series opener on Friday afternoon against the Nationals.