Game One Hundred Fifty-Seven – Cubs 9 Mets 6 – 10 innings
WP – Bobby Howry (7-4) LP – Luis Ayala (2-10) Save – Kerry Wood (34)
Before recapping the Cubs 96th win of the season, there were two bigger issues that popped up on Wednesday night. First, Mark DeRosa left the game in the 5th after doubling in a pair of runs and cutting the Mets lead to 5-3. DeRosa hit his 21st longball of the year in the 2nd that gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Reports during the game stated DeRosa departed with a left calf strain and is listed as day-to-day. DeRosa is a big reason behind the team’s success this season and is one of the Cubs’ MVPs. DeRosa must be healthy in order for the Cubs to play into late October.
Second, it is time for Carlos Zambrano to grow up. In his last “tune-up” before the post-season, Zambrano gave up 5 runs on 3 hits in 4 2/3 innings (87 pitches) with 4 walks and 2 strikeouts. Zambrano was sharp early on, retired the first 7 batters he faced then started losing it after giving up a single to Argenius Reyes. Zambrano walked the bases loaded after the Cubs could not turn a double play on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Oliver Perez.
Zambrano walked David Wright with the bases loaded to force in the tying run. After yelling at either the home plate umpire, Jim Wolf, for squeezing him or at Henry Blanco for calling the pitch, Zambrano imploded. Jose Reyes was able to get under his skin and not even Derrek Lee could calm him down. Then the pitcher that is supposed to be the Cubs’ ace served up a Grand Slam to Carlos Delgado….5-1 Mets with one swing of the bat.
Granted the umpire’s strike zone was inconsistent for both teams the entire evening and with that said, Zambrano must stop reacting the way he does when things do not go his way. Zambrano is paid to throw strikes not react like a child on the mound for everyone to see. ‘Big Z‘ has been horrible since August 1st, with the exception of one great night in Milwaukee, and his last start of the regular season was anything but a tune-up, it was another meltdown. Zambrano must realize that he is a part of a team….and the team comes first.
It is time to party like it’s 1984….on the 24th anniversary of the Cubs winning the National League Eastern Division title and with Rick Sutcliffe calling the game for ESPN, Lou Piniella’s crew became the first Cubs’ team since the Jim Frey-led squad to reach the 96 win plateau. Lou Piniella picked up his 1700th career managerial win in the process after Ryan Theriot reached on a 2-out single in the 10th, stole 2nd then scored on a bloop double to right by Derrek Lee on a 3-2 pitch. Aramis Ramirez followed with his 27th dinger of the year….all three runs were scored after two out and none on.
The Mets had their chances. They left 10 on base in the final 5 innings and put the leadoff runner on in 5 straight innings before Kerry Wood retired the Metropolitans in order in the 10th.
Neal Cotts turned in one of his best outings of the second half. Cotts relieved Zambrano in the 5th, retired Delgado to end the inning then worked around a leadoff walk to Carlos Beltran in 6th by striking out the side. Jeff Samardzija blew his third save of the season when he walked Ramon Martinez with the bases loaded to force in the tying run.
From a pitching standpoint, this was a sloppy game. The two teams used a combined 13 pitchers and issued 16 walks.
The Cubs improved to 96-61 on the season and for the third time this year are 35 games over .500….
With the Cubs down 5-1 in the 5th with one out, Ryan Theriot reached on a single to center. Oliver Perez could not throw strikes and walked both Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez to load the bases. Mark DeRosa followed with a double down the left field line that cut the Mets lead to 5-3….Theriot and Lee scored.
During the pitching change Mark DeRosa left the game with a left calf strain. Jerry Manuel replaced Perez with Duaner Sanchez with runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Reed Johnson singled to left on a 1-0 pitch. Aramis Ramirez scored easily and Kosuke Fukudome tied the game after Daniel Murphy over ran the ball.
Alfonso Soriano gave the Cubs a 6-5 lead in the 7th after Reed Johnson led off the inning with a single to the hole at short. Ronny Cedeno attempted to sacrifice him to 2nd but bunted the ball too hard back to the mound and Johnson was forced at 2nd base. Micah Hoffpauir followed with a bloop single to right that Ryan Church trapped and almost threw out Cedeno at 2nd. After Daryle Ward popped out to Jose Reyes, Alfonso Soriano doubled down the left field line….Cedeno scored.
The Cubs kept battling on Wednesday night. While the Cubs bullpen gave the Mets every opportunity possible to win the game, the pen made the big pitches when they needed to….especially Bobby Howry in the 9th.
Every win is a good win, but the Cubs need Mark DeRosa and Carlos Zambrano healthy….physically and mentally.
Weather permitting, Rich Harden is scheduled to face Pedro Martinez in the Cubs final regular season game at Shea Stadium on Thursday night,