Game Three – Cubs 11 Astros 6
WP – Ted Lilly (1-0) LP – Brian Moehler (0-1) Save – None
The Chicago Cubs won the opening series of a season for the first time since 2003 when they outlasted the Astros on Wednesday night. The Cubs jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the second inning. They hit around in each of the first two frames and knocked Astros’ starter Brian Moehler out after only 1 2/3 innings. The Cubs scored four times in each inning with the big blast coming off the bat of Mike Fontenot…a 3-run shot on the first pitch from Russ Ortiz. “Little Babe Ruth” tied a career high with four RBI.
Ted Lilly served ‘em up and the Astros hit ‘em out. The Astros pounded four home runs off Lilly in five innings of work. Jeff Keppinger and Lance Berkman went back-to-back in the third and Ivan Rodriguez launched a 2-run shot in the fourth that cut the Cubs lead to 8-4. Kaz Matsui added a solo shot off Lilly in the fifth.
Lilly allowed five runs on eight hits with three strikeouts in five inning…but no walks.
Aramis Ramirez had a huge night at the plate and his two-run double in the sixth changed the momentum of the game after the Astros plated four unanswered runs off Lilly. Ramirez was 4-for-6 with a double, a run scored and 4 RBI.
Kosuke Fukudome played with a lot of confidence on Wednesday and for the first time since last May looked like the player that took Chicago by storm a year ago. Fukudome finished 4-for-5 with a career high four runs scored. Fukudome pounded a ground rule double in the third off Russ Ortiz and launched his first home run of the year in the ninth.
Milton Bradley is still hitless as a Cub but he reached base four times on Wednesday with three walks and was hit by a pitch. Bradley put together some impressive at bats and seems to have a plan when he walks to the plate. Bradley scored two of the Cubs’ 11 runs.
David Patton made his Major League debut. After Hunter Pence took him deep for the Astros’ fifth home run of the night, Patton settled down and retired the last six batters he faced. Patton’s night ended with a swinging strikeout of Lance Berkman on the third pitch of the at bat. Patton threw 25 pitches in two innings of work, 16 for strikes.
At Piniella’s request, the Cubs offense kicked it into high gear on Wednesday. The Cubs equaled their win total from last season at Minute Maid (2-4) despite the poor outing from Ted Lilly. The best thing Lilly did all night was not issuing any free passes. Lilly did not retire the Astros in order on Wednesday but at least the offense gave him plenty of run support once the balls started leaving the park.
The performances of David Patton, Carlos Marmol and Angel Guzman will be lost in the Home Run Derby. Patton was excellent and showed more of the poise that allowed him to make the team out of Spring Training. Marmol allowed only a two-out double to Ivan Rodriguez and Angel Guzman retired the last three batters he faced.
After the Pence homer off Patton, the Cubs bullpen did not allow another run in the last four innings of the game.
The Cubs offense wasted no time getting started on Wednesday. They scored four runs in the first inning with station-to-station baseball…
Alfonso Soriano (2-for-5 with 2 runs scored and a walk) led off with a single to right. Kosuke followed with a single to center and Derrek Lee (1-for-6 with a run scored and a RBI) drove in Soriano with a double down the first base line. Milton Bradley walked to load the bases.
Aramis Ramirez followed with a single to left that plated Fukudome with the Cubs second run. Mike Fontenot reached on an infield single…Lee scored, 3-0 Cubs. With the bases loaded, Ryan Theriot singled to right. Bradley scored, 4-0 Cubs.
Koyie Hill hit into a 3-2 double play and Ted Lilly grounded out to second to end the inning.
Brian Moehler appeared to figure things out to start the second. Alfonso Soriano lined out and Kosuke singled to right. Derrek Lee struck out but Moehler hit Milton Bradley…which proved to be the beginning of the end of his night.
Aramis Ramirez knocked Moehler out of the game with a single to left. Fukudome scored, 5-0 Cubs. Cecil Cooper brought in Russ Ortiz to face Mike Fontenot.
“Little Babe Ruth” launched the first pitch from Ortiz over the wall in right…8-0 Cubs and the smallest man on the field came through with the biggest hit of the game.
After going quietly in the third and fourth innings, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome reached on back-to-back one-out walks in the fifth. After Derrek Lee fouled out, Milton Bradley walked to load the bases. Aramis Ramirez then doubled to left on a 2-2 pitch…and changed the momentum of the game.
The Cubs patience and long at bats were back on Wednesday. To go along with their 16 hits, they walked five times. The Cubs threw 130 pitches while the offense looked at 182.
A series win to begin the season against a division rival on the road…not a bad way to start the year.
The Cubs will spend Thursday’s off day in Milwaukee. Rich Harden will face Braden Looper on Friday afternoon in the Brewers’ home opener.