Game One Hundred Fifty-Three – Cubs 5 Cardinals 4
WP – Ted Lilly (16-9) LP – Joel Pineiro (6-7) Save – Kerry Wood (32)
The Chicago Cubs are the 2008 National League Central Division Champions! For the first time since 1906, 1907 and 1908 the Cubs are headed to the post season for the second year in a row. Ted Lilly set a career high with his 16th victory of the season and Kerry Wood picked up his 32nd save by retiring Aaron Miles on a pop out to Jim Edmonds in shallow center.
For the sixth time since 1945 and the third time since 2003, the Chicago Cubs will participate in Baseball’s post season. This is the earliest the Cubs organization has clinched a division title or a NL pennant since 1932.
What a game and what a day for Lou Piniella’s crew. Not only did the Cubs win their second straight division title….but they did it against the St. Louis Cardinals. Lou Piniella’s crew took advantage of two errors by the Cardinals and played a solid fundamental game of their own. Ted Lilly set the tone early with 5 shutout innings and did not allow multiple runners to reach until the 6th. Lilly escaped the 6th inning after allowing 4 runs with 2 outs, three off a home run by Troy Glaus, and retired the Cardinals in order in the 7th.
Carlos Marmol retired the heart of the Cardinals order in the 8th and Kerry Wood worked around a lead off walk to Troy Glaus in the 9th. Mark DeRosa made a good pivot on a grounder off the bat of Adam Kennedy to cut down the lead runner at 2nd base.
Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee turned in a tremendous defensive play that robbed Albert Pujols of a hit to start the 4th inning and allowed Lilly to retire the side in order for the first time on the afternoon. Lilly’s 16th victory of the season tied Ryan Dempster for the team lead….not bad for a pitcher that began the season with a 1-4 record.
Alfonso Soriano drove in the Cubs first two runs on a 2-out single to left in the 2nd inning. A fielding error by Brian Barton allowed Kosuke Fukudome to score all the way from 1st base. Geovany Soto reached on the Cardinals’ second error to start the 4th inning and scored the Cubs fourth run of the game on a double off the left field wall by Mark DeRosa. Kosuke Fukudome advanced DeRosa to 3rd on a ground out to 2nd and Lou Piniella called for the squeeze with Ted Lilly. ‘The Bulldog‘ swung and missed at the first offering from Joel Pineiro then dropped down a perfect bunt that allowed DeRosa to score standing.
Before the team celebrated with the fans in the stands, Jim Edmonds reminded his teammates to “Keep their eye on the Prize.” The division crown is the first step and from all of the post game interviews that is the way the entire organization is approaching their second title in as many years.
It has been a very special summer and the next goal is securing home field advantage throughout the National League Playoffs. The Cubs hold a three game lead over the New York Mets for the best record in the lead. Sunday is the first official day of fall, but the Boys of Summer still have a lot of work to do…. On a day the organization set a new franchise mark in attendance (3,252,462 in 2007, after Saturday for 2008….3,259,649), the Cubs reached the first goal of season. The win on Saturday was the Cubs’ 93rd of the year, the first time since 1989 they reached that win plateau….with at least 8 games left. The 93-60 record is the best for the organization through 153 games since 1945 (95-56-1).
The Cubs will have time to rest a few players over the next 8 games but other than Sunday look for Lou Piniella to continue to keep the pedal down for the remainder of the season. Piniella mentioned during Saturday’s game that the Cubs still have games left against teams fighting for a playoff spot and it would not be fair to baseball for them to not give their best over the final week of the season.
The 2nd inning proved to be the difference and it was very refreshing to see Alfonso Soriano not swinging for the fences with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Jim Edmonds played a big role once again and started the inning with a double to left….that just missed leaving the park. Joel Pineiro walked Geovany Soto on 4 pitches, then the Cubs caught the first break of the inning.
On a 2-0 pitch from Pineiro, Mark DeRosa hit a grounder to Felipe Lopez at 2nd base. For some reason Lopez tried to tag Soto as he went by instead of starting what should have been a 4-6-3 double play. Soto was forced at 2nd but DeRosa beat the return throw from Cesar Izturis. A visibly angry Pineiro then walked Kosuke Fukudome on 4 pitches to load the bases with 1 out.
Ted Lilly battled but eventually struck out. Alfonso Soriano took ball one from Pineiro then ripped his next pitch into left field. Two runs would have scored but when Brian Barton booted the ball Fukudome scored and Soriano ended up at 3rd.
The Cubs offense tacked on in the 4th after an error by Troy Glaus allowed Geovany Soto to reach to begin the inning. Mark DeRosa followed with a long double off the wall in left, DeRosa pulled the ball into the well and just missed his 21st of the year. Kosuke Fukudome grounded out to 2nd (a productive out), DeRosa advanced to 3rd and scored on the squeeze….Lilly’s bunt was perfectly placed. Lilly reached on the play and recorded his 5th RBI of the season.
….And by the way, the win also guaranteed the Cubs the season series against the Cardinals with one game left, 8-6 on the year versus Tony LaRussa’s team.
Ryan Dempster is scheduled to face Braden Looper in the final home game of the 2008 regular season on Sunday afternoon. The Cubs are Division Champions….and it is back to work on Sunday for Lou Piniella’s crew.