Game Four – Cubs 3 Brewers 4
WP – Carlos Villanueva (1-0) LP – Kevin Gregg (0-1, BS 1) Save – None
The bottom line is relievers must throw strikes when they enter a game…and on Friday the Cubs pitchers did not, especially Kevin Gregg. On the afternoon the Cubs issued seven walks, five from the bullpen and Neal Cotts hit the only batter he faced.
Rich Harden quieted a lot of critics and concerns, at least for one day, on Friday with a dominating 10-strikeout performance. Harden was in line for the win and allowed only one earned run in six innings.
With the second largest crowd in Miller Park history on hand, the Brewers were given the first win of the season series. Ryan Theriot had one of his roughest days in the field as a Cub. Theriot’s error in the first led to the Brewers’ first run…then his indecision and poor decision in the ninth allowed Rickie Weeks to score the winning run.
Lou Piniella used six relievers on Friday afternoon and each one had trouble throwing strikes but they were able to pitch their way out of trouble without allowing any damage…until the ninth inning.
Lou Piniella inserted Kevin Gregg into the game with two outs in the eighth with the tying run on second base. Gregg struck out Bill Hall to end the inning and retired Jason Kendall on a ground out to third to start the ninth.
Gregg then walked pinch-hitter Chris Duffy on a 3-2 pitch that bounced well before home plate…Lou Piniella was visibly upset at the pitch selection. Rickie Weeks then hit a line drive over Alfonso Soriano’s head in left, the ball hit off the wall and Duffy tied the game. The double by Weeks was the Brewers’ fourth hit of the game and the first since the fourth inning.
With the winning run on second, Kevin Gregg uncorked another pitch in the dirt with Corey Hart at the plate that allowed Weeks to advance to third. Gregg eventually walked Hart, his second free pass of the inning. Ryan Braun followed with the game winner.
Braun hit a sharp grounder toward the hole at short. It appeared Gregg got the groundball he needed but after a short pause, Theriot decided to make an off balance throw to the plate. Koyie Hill held his ground but Weeks scored the winning run…and slammed his helmet to setoff the celebration at home plate.
The Cubs offense managed nine hits off Brewers’ pitching but all of the runs came via the longball. Milton Bradley recorded his first hit as a Cub, a solo home run off Braden Looper in the fourth inning. Koyie Hill hit his first home run of the year, a 2-run shot in the sixth off Seth McClung that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
The Cubs beat themselves on Friday afternoon…and wasted a gem by Rich Harden.
The Brewers first run came off a throwing error by Ryan Theriot that allowed Rickie Weeks to reach. Ryan Braun drove in Weeks with a 1-out single to left. Harden settled down and struck out Prince Fielder and retired J.J. Hardy on a fly out to left.
Harden struck out the side in the second and did not allow his third hit until a bloop double by Bill Hall in the fourth. Ryan Theriot appeared to call off Alfonso Soriano on a ball hit to left. Theriot could not make the play and it was ruled a double. Harden walked Jason Kendall to load the bases…the first two pitches were out of the strike zone, then Harden issued the last two intentionally.
Braden Looper hit what appeared to be a two-run single up the middle when the ball left his bat but Rich Harden kicked it to Theriot who threw out Looper at first to end the inning. Harden escaped the bases loaded jam…with a nice kick save.
Harden finished his day by striking out three of the last six batters he faced.
Kosuke Fukudome was 2-for-5 with a double…while the ‘Big Three‘ were 0-for-12 with two walks. Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee must hit for this team to win. On Friday they did not and Lee’s days in the third hole must be numbered. He is hitting only .118 after four games with a .211 OBP.
It is only the fourth game of a long season….but Kevin Gregg must throw strikes. His first three appearances as a Cub have been rocky ones at best. Gregg needs a solid inning before the home opener on Monday because the Wrigley Faithful have no patience with pitchers that blow games in the ninth inning.
Carlos Zambrano is slated to face Dave Bush on Saturday night at Miller Park.