Game One Hundred Fifty-One – Cubs 7 Brewers 6 – 12 innings
WP – Kerry Wood (5-4) LP – Carlos Villanueva (4-7) Save – None
The Milwaukee Brewers were one out away from winning their third series of the year at Wrigley Field. Salomon Torres retired Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee to start the 9th and the Cubs appeared to be headed for another lackluster defeat. The offense after all had managed only 3 hits on the afternoon and they were down by a score of 6-2.
Aramis Ramirez stepped in and lined a double past Ryan Braun in left. Braun was playing deep and could not make the catch, the ball rolled under Braun’s legs all the way to the ivy and Ramirez scampered into 2nd base. Jim Edmonds worked the count to 2-1 before singling to center and driving in Ramirez with the Cubs third run of the game….all of the sudden there was hope. Mark DeRosa followed with a single to right center, Edmonds advanced to 3rd and Geovany Soto stepped to the plate.
Geovany Soto launched the first pitch from Torres into the bleachers in left center, Ryan Braun barely moved and the rookie catcher that caught a no-hitter four days ago hit the biggest home run of his career. Soto’s 23rd of the season inched him closer to Billy Williams’ rookie record of 25 and lifted his team from what looked like certain defeat….this team simply does not quit.
Carlos Marmol breezed through the 10th with 2 strikeouts on 12 pitches. Kerry Wood struck out the side in the 11th but ran into trouble in the 12th. J.J. Hardy singled to start the inning and after failing to sacrifice Hardy into scoring position, Corey Hart reached on a hustle double into left center. With runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, Lou Piniella made the slow walk to the mound.
The Cubs’ skipper talked strategy with Wood and asked his closer if he wanted to walk Craig Counsell to load the bases. Wood did not walk Counsell, he went after him and with the infield in, induced a ground out to Mark DeRosa for the first out. Jason Kendall followed with a grounder to 3rd on the first pitch. Hardy broke with contact and was caught in a rundown (5-2-6) for the second out. Wood threw two quick strikes to pinch hitter Joe Dillon. Dillon held up on a check swing, then grounded out to Ryan Theriot to end the inning.
Once again the winning rally was started with a walk. Daryle Ward worked the free pass and Piniella called on Jason Marquis to pinch run. Reed Johnson sacrificed Marquis into scoring position and the Brewers walked Alfonso Soriano. Ryan Theriot hit a fly to right for the second out, Marquis tagged and advanced to 3rd.
Derrek Lee was hitless on the afternoon (0-for-5), worked the count to 2-2 against Carlos Villanueva and on the fifth pitch of the at bat lined a single into center that scored Marquis with the winning run.
In a season full of memorable moments, the Cubs picked the right time for their biggest, most dramatic comeback of the year. Lou Piniella said after the game, “You never know what’s going to happen until the final out.” Five of the Cubs seven runs on the afternoon were scored with 2 outs….and all five of the Cubs runs from the 9th inning on were with 2 outs.
Before the 9th inning the Cubs struggled at the plate, in the field and on the mound. The first two runs came off of solo home runs by Jim Edmonds and Aramis Ramirez….his second in as many games. The Cubs did not put a runner into scoring position until the 9th and were retired on five pitches in the 6th by Todd Coffey and four pitches in the 7th by Eric Gagne. Mark DeRosa committed both mental and physical errors in the field that led to 4 unearned runs in the 6th and the Cubs pitching staff, including Rich Harden could not throw strikes. Harden walked 6 of the 9 Brewers on the afternoon.
What will be lost in the late inning dramatics is the performance of Randy Wells. Other than the bases loaded walk he issued J.J. Hardy in the 6th that forced in the Brewers fifth run, the newest Cub was perfect in his second outing in as many games. Wells tossed 2 1/3 innings of shutdown ball and did not allow a run for the second day in a row.
The Cubs’ 92nd victory of the year increased the lead over the Brewers to 9 full games with at least 10 games left on the schedule and eliminated the Houston Astros from contention in the central…. Rich Harden struggled with his command early on and after a 38-pitch 1st inning it was obvious his day would be cut short. Harden regained his command after walking three and allowing a run without a hit in the opening frame. Harden at one point struck out 5 in a row, including the side in 2nd. Harden walked 6 and struck out 7 in 5 innings but allowed only 1 run on 1 hit. Harden tied a season high with 115 pitches thrown and left with a 2-1 lead.
Four of the Brewers’ six run came the inning after Harden left the game. Jeff Samardzija started the 6th and struggled with his command once again. After retiring Corey Hart on a ground out, he walked Craig Counsell. Jason Kendall hit a grounder to Mark DeRosa, it was a tailor made double play, but DeRosa booted the ball and opened the door for the huge inning.
Mike Lamb hit for Dave Bush and grounded out to short. Kendall was forced at 2nd and with runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs, Mike Cameron singled to left to tie the game at 2. Ray Durham followed with a single to right on a 3-2 pitch that plated Lamb with the go ahead run….3-2 Brewers. Ryan Braun blooped a single into right that scored Cameron and Braun advanced to 2nd on the play.
Samardzija intentionally walked Prince Fielder to load the bases and Piniella went to the pen for Randy Wells. Wells walked J.J. Hardy on 4 pitches to force in the Brewers’ fifth run. Corey Hart flied out to right on the first pitch to end the inning….all 4 runs scored were unearned and with 2 outs.
Another big turning point in the game was in the 9th inning. Prince Fielder started the inning with a double off of Neal Cotts. Michael Wuertz replaced Cotts but could not make a play on a sacrifice bunt by J.J. Hardy. Corey Hart followed with a double to left center. Fielder scored easily but Hardy was thrown out at the plate for the first out. Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot turned in a good play to keep the Brewers from adding to their lead. With Craig Counsell at the plate, Wuertz uncorked a wild pitch but Geovany Soto kept the ball in front of him. Hart tried to advance to 3rd and was thrown out by Soto for the second out of the inning. Craig Counsell popped out to Mark DeRosa to end the inning.
The Brewers made three outs at 3rd or home in the 9th and 12th innings.
The Cubs did not quit. Geovany Soto all but wrapped up his Rookie of the Year Award and should receive votes for the NL MVP. What a great week for the Cubs catcher and his blast handed the misguided Salomon Torres his eighth blown save of the year.
Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face Adam Wainwright in the opener of the weekend series against the Cardinals on Friday afternoon.