Game One Hundred Fifty-Six – Cubs 2 Mets 6
WP – Johan Santana (11-9) LP – Chad Gaudin (9-5, 4-2) Save – None
A day after securing home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs, Lou Piniella began preparing for the post-season and gave several of his regulars the night off. The Cubs scored a pair of runs early against Johan Santana and Sean Marshall out dueled the former AL Cy Young winner early on. Marshall retired 8 in a row at one point and did not allow a run until the 5th inning. Piniella stated before the game he wanted at least 4 innings out of his southpaw and Marshall gave his skipper more than he asked for on Tuesday night. Marshall allowed 2 runs, a 2-run single by David Wright with 2 outs in the 5th, on 4 hits with 2 walks and 7 strikeouts.
Chad Gaudin struggled with his command and gave up 4 runs on 4 hits in a third of an inning. The Mets scored the eventual winning run on an error by Gaudin and the first four reached in the inning with solid hits off Gaudin in his second outing back. Jose Reyes broke the game open with a bases clearing triple off of Kevin Hart. Angel Guzman struggled with his command as well. He tossed two scoreless innings in relief of Hart but walked 3….and struck out 3.
The Cubs offense, minus Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot scored on back-to-back doubles by Casey McGehee and Kosuke Fukudome in the 2nd. Reed Johnson, hitting in the cleanup spot, drove in Ronny Cedeno with a single to right in the 3rd. The Cubs made solid contact against Santana early in the game. Four of the eight hits were doubles in the first three innings….one each by Derrek Lee, Casey McGehee, Kosuke Fukudome and Ronny Cedeno. Alfonso Soriano went hitless on the night and is 0-for-9 in the series.
The turning point in the game came in the 5th inning on a bizarre play. With the Cubs up 2-0, Sean Marshall struck out Ryan Church on three pitches for the first out then hit Nick Evans on the first pitch of the at bat. On a 1-1 pitch to Johan Santana, Marshall threw an inside fastball that broke Santana’s bat. The Mets’ pitcher made contact and dribbled a ball up the middle toward the 1st base side of the mound. The barrel of the bat preceded on the same path and the ball hit the bat again, changed direction where Ronny Cedeno could not make a play….Santana reached on an infield single. Marshall struck out Jose Reyes but walked Luis Castillo to load the bases.
Lou Piniella made the slow walk but left in Marshall to face David Wright….a move that would not have been done in a game the Cubs’ needed to win. Wright blooped a single into left that tied the game.
Johan Santana picked up a big win for his team but threw 125 pitches in 8 innings….and for the 43rd time in his career registered a double digit strikeout total (10). If the Cubs end up facing Santana in the first round they should have a good first hand scouting report.
Lou Piniella’s crew lost for the first time this season to the New York Mets (3-1) with two games left at Shea Stadium in the regular season.
From Cubstory….Tuesday was the 10th Anniversary of the Brant Brown game. If you listen close enough you can still hear Santo screaming. Lou Piniella is approaching the last week of the season the right way, despite the fact he ‘hates‘ losing ballgames. Piniella talked about getting his regulars rest down the stretch but not to the point where they lose a bunch of games in a row. Piniella talked about making sure they had momentum going into the first game of the NLDS next Wednesday. While the Cubs’ skipper did not say in as many words, do not be surprised to see the everyday lineup in the final three games in Milwaukee.
The most important performance on Tuesday night belonged to Kosuke Fukudome. The Cubs need his bat and defense in the lineup in the post season and he hit a double to right and a single to left off one of the best pitchers in the game. Piniella said one of the goals this week is to get Fukudome back on track….and in the two games he has played in since the Cubs won the division he looks like a different player at the plate.
The Cubs bullpen of Chad Gaudin, Kevin Hart and Angel Guzman did not help their cause on Tuesday night. The Cubs need Chad Gaudin to shake off his rust quickly in order to give his skipper enough confidence to use one of the possible eleven pitching spots on him….
Every game is meaningful but Tuesday night Lou Piniella proved he is Keeping His Eye on the Prize.
Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to start the most important game of the last week of the regular season on Wednesday night against Oliver Perez.