Zaturday Night’s Alright for a Comeback – Cubs 6 Brewers 5

Game Five – Cubs 6 Brewers 5
WP – Aaron Heilman (1-0) LP – Carlos Villanueva (1-1, BS 1) Save – Carlos Marmol (1)

wflag.jpgAnd it’s only April 11… What a ninth inning at Miller Park on Saturday night. The Cubs had been outplayed through the first eight innings and the bullpen could not find the strike zone. Angel Guzman and Neal Cotts walked the bases loaded in the seventh and Aaron Heilman gave up a 2-run single to J.J. Hardy that broke a 3-3 tie.

Aramis Ramirez cut the Brewers lead to 5-4 in the eighth with his second home run of the season. Aaron Heilman retired the Brewers in order in the bottom of the inning and kept the Cubs deficit at one run…it was only the second time the Brewers were retired in order.

Reed Johnson, who always finds himself in the middle of the action, pinch-hit for Heilman with one-out in the ninth. Johnson singled to center on a 1-1 pitchJoey Gathright pinch ran and became the tying run.

Alfonso Soriano stepped in against Carlos Villanueva and launched his first pitch to the second deck. Ron Santo screamed and the Cubs were up by a run after Soriano’s tape measure shot…his third in five games.

Carlos Marmol took the mound in the ninth and recorded his first save of the season. Marmol retired Rickie Weeks on a hard ground out to second for the first out. Corey Hart reached on a single to left past a diving Aramis Ramirez. With the tying run on base, Marmol struck out Ryan Braun swinging on a 2-2 pitch and Prince Fielder looking on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.

Carlos Zambrano gutted through six innings on a night he did not have his best stuff. The Brewers ran up his pitch count in the first inning and by the fifth he’d thrown 104 pitches. Zambrano went out for the sixth and retired the Brewers in order for the first time. Zambrano struck out three of the last four batters he faced.

Kosuke Fukudome put together another huge game at the plate…with one baserunning blunder. Fukudome hit his second home run of the year off Dave Bush in the fourth, the Cubs’ first hit of the night. Then in the sixth, Alfonso Soriano and Fukudome hit back-to-back doubles that accounted for the Cubs second run.

After being shutout for most of the night and blowing several opportunities in the middle innings, the Cubs offense scored in each of the final four innings…with the biggest hits coming from Aramis Ramirez, Reed Johnson and, of course, Alfonso Soriano.

The Brewers made Carlos Zambrano work early on and that paid off later in the game. Lou Piniella needed a long outing from Zambrano but midway through the third inning he’d thrown 56 pitches.

Corey Hart reached on a 1-out single to left. After Big Z struck out Ryan Braun swinging, Prince Fielder launched his first home run of the season over the wall in right center. J.J. Hardy walked but Mike Cameron flied out to deep center to end the inning. Zambrano’s pitch count was at 70.

Bill Hall led off the fourth with an infield single. Mike Rivera followed with a single to left and Hall advanced to third on the play. Hall took advantage of Soriano’s lackadaisical reputation in the field. After a botched bunt attempt by Dave Bush, Rickie Weeks gave the Brewers a 3-1 lead with a single to center.

At that point Zambrano apparently decided he’d had enough. Big Z struck out Corey Hart and Ryan Braun swinging to end the inning.

Carlos Zambrano allowed three runs on seven hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in six innings…118 pitches.

Lou Piniella’s bullpen kinda took over in the seventh and it was one of the roughest half innings for the Cubs in over two years. Angel Guzman retired Rickie Weeks on a foul out to Derrek Lee and jumped ahead of Corey Hart 0-2…before eventually walking him.

Guzman lost the ability to throw strikes after the walk to Hart and issued a free pass to Ryan Braunon four pitches. Piniella had enough and brought in Neal Cotts to face Prince Fielder.

For the second day in a row Cotts did not do his job. He walked Prince Fielder to load the bases with one out…and the game tied at three.

Lou Piniella sent out Larry Rothschild to pull Cotts and bring in Aaron Heilman.

With the infield back, Heilman gave up a groundball single to center to J.J Hardy…two runs scored, 5-3 Brewers. Mike Cameron was then called out on a check swing ball in the dirt. J.J. Hardy lost track of the number of outs and took off from first base, Prince Fielder was caught in a rundown and eventually tagged out by Mike Fontenot.

Relievers that do not throw strikes and walk batter after batter will not pitch for Lou Piniella for any length of time…look for changes to be made soon to the pen. Piniella was in mid-season form on Saturday night.

The Cubs offense was Kosuke Fukudome early on. Kosuke put the Cubs on the board and ended Dave Bush’s no-hit bid with one swing to lead off the fourth. Fukudome launched a 1-0 pitch into the bullpen in right center.

Ryan Braun misplayed a sinking soft liner off the bat of Alfonso Soriano to start the sixth. Braun’s mistake went for a double and Soriano scored the Cubs’ second run when Fukudome scorched a double into the corner in right…he advanced to third, with no outs, on a throwing error by Corey Hart.

Derrek Lee then lined out to a leaping Bill Hall at third. Lee hit the ball hard. Milton Bradley followed with a ground out to first. Fukudome broke for the plate and was out by a mile. Prince Fielder made a good throw to keep the tying run from scoring.

The Cubs loaded the bases in the seventh and managed only one run. Micah Hoffpauir struck out…and Alfonso Soriano was called safe after he hit a tailor made double play ball to J.J. Hardy. Rickie Weeks’ throw was in the dirt but replays showed the Cubs caught a break…Mike Fontenot scored the tying run on the play. Fukudome struck out to end the inning.

The Cubs offense and bullpen are a work-in-progress five games into the young season. Four of the Cubs’ six runs came via the longball. The come-from-behind win guaranteed the Cubs at least a .500 road trip to start the year.

Ryan Dempster will face Jeff Suppan in the series finale on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball…and don’t be surprised to see Micah Hoffpauir and Aaron Miles in the starting lineup.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver