Game Seventeen – Cubs 10 Cardinals 3
WP – Rich Harden (2-1) LP – Todd Wellemeyer (1-2) Save – None
The Cubs offense came out swinging on Sunday afternoon…and Rich Harden took care of the rest. While the offensive breakout was just what Lou Piniella ordered, there was a very scary moment on Sunday and the Cubs lost another one of ‘The Big 3‘ to an injury.
Derrek Lee doubled in Ryan Theriot in the top of the inning and gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead but left in the bottom of the first inning with neck spasms. Lee is listed as day-to-day and could force the Cubs hand in placing Milton Bradley on the DL.
With one out and a man on in the top of the second, Todd Wellemeyer hit Alfonso Soriano on the back of the helmet with his first pitch. Soriano never left his feet and appeared dazed at first but remained in the game. The Cubs dodged another injury to one of their big bats. Soriano was a force on Sunday back in his familiar lead off spot…2-for-4 with a double, a stolen base and two runs scored.
Kosuke Fukudome celebrated his 32nd birthday by setting a new career high with five runs batted in. Fukudome put the Cubs on the board with a RBI single in the first and put an exclamation point the win with his fourth home run of the year in the eighth, a three-run shot over the wall in right. Fukudome was 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and five big RBI.
Micah Hoffpauir was not in the starting lineup but did more than his part offensively on Sunday. Hoffpauir put together a very impressive at bat against Todd Wellemeyer in the second inning that resulted in a bases loaded walk…and the Cubs fourth run. Then in the seventh, Hoffpauir launched his second home run of the week, and the first for the Cubs since his last dinger on Tuesday, off of P.J. Walters in the seventh.
Aaron Miles had his best day as a Cub against his former team. Miles recorded three hits in five at bats and scored a pair of runs.
For all of the question marks that surround Rich Harden, he silenced those concerns for at least another day. Harden dominated the high-powered Cardinals offense for six innings. Harden struck out five in a row at one point and finished the day with nine and only two walks. The Cardinals managed only four hits but two were solo homers by Yadier Molina and Rick Ankiel. Harden threw 107 pitches in six innings, 69 for strikes and appeared to get stronger as the game wore on.
Lou Piniella’s crew ended their four-game losing streak with an impressive win in St. Louis. In the process the Cubs ended the Cardinals nine-game home winning streak and avoided dropping below the .500 mark for the season. What will be lost in Sunday’s offensive breakout is the outing turned in by Rich Harden. Granted Harden was given a three-run lead before he ever took the mound but Harden threw strikes and kept the Cardinals from chipping away at the lead…kept them guessing all afternoon
Rich Harden has always had number one stuff and arguably could be the ace of a staff if he could remain healthy for a full season.
There was a little controversy in the fifth inning. After pitching Albert Pujols inside in the third inning and irritating the Cardinals’ first baseman, Harden hit Pujols on the backside with his first pitch in the fifth. Pujols was not happy it was obviously in retaliation for Wellemeyer hitting Soriano. Harden stuck up for his teammate and handled it the proper way.
The key to Harden’s success however was not only pitching around Albert Pujols but retiring Ryan Ludwick…he was 0-for-3 without strikeout on the afternoon against Rich Harden.
Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a single to right on the first pitch from Todd Wellemeyer. Ryan Theriot dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line that put runners on first and second for Kosuke Fukudome.
Fukudome lined a single to right on a 2-1 pitch from Wellemeyer that put the Cubs on the board with an earned run…a rarity over the last week for the Cubs’ offense. Derrek Lee followed with a double off the wall in left that plated Theriot with the Cubs second run.
Reed Johnson fouled out for the first out but Mike Fontenot put the ball in play. Fontenot grounded out to short but Fukudome was able to score…3-0 Cubs.
The offense kept it going against Wellemeyer in the second. Aaron Miles singled to left and Harden sacrificed him to second…and nearly beat out the throw to first. Soriano stepped in and was promptly hit in the head on the first pitch. Ryan Theriot popped out to center but Kosuke Fukudome walked to load the bases for Micah Hoffpauir.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Hoffpauir showed a lot of patience at the plate. Hoffpauir worked the count to 3-2 and laid off a low inside pitch for ball four…Miles scored, 4-0 Cubs.
Alfonso Soriano ripped a 1-2 pitch from Wellemeyer down the right field line with one-out in the fourth. The ball bounced over the short wall for a ground rule double. Soriano then stole third with Theriot at the plate. Theriot appeared to ground out to Khalil Greene but Greene bobbled the ball then threw it high to Pujols. Soriano scored and Theriot ended up at second. Kosuke Fukudome singled to center and plated Theriot with the Cubs sixth run.
After Micah Hoffpauir gave the Cubs a 7-1 lead in the seventh, the Cubs kept tacking on in the eighth. Aaron Miles started the inning with a single to left and Koyie Hill, who came in on a double switch, followed with a single to right. Soriano flied out to left and Theriot grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice.
Tony LaRussa lifted Blaine Boyer and brought in southpaw Trevor Miller to face Fukudome. Fukudome worked the count to 2-2 then launched Miller’s next pitch over the wall in right for his fourth dinger of the season.
Lou Piniella might have found a new third-hole hitter. Kosuke Fukudome is 5-for-12 in limited action with six walks and no strikeouts (.416/.611).
The only negative on Sunday was Neal Cotts. Lou Piniella is showing Cotts a ton of patience, something out of character for Piniella. Cotts struggled once again and gave up a run on one hit with a walk in 2/3 of an inning. Cotts threw 20 pitches, 12 for strikes. Aaron Heilman bailed out Cotts after he walked Albert Pujols with one on and the Cubs up by a score of 7-3. Heilman retired Ryan Ludwick on a fly out to left center.
The Cubs kept hitting and hitting on Sunday with big days from three players they were not depending on when the season began.
The Cubs open a difficult three-game series in Arizona on Monday night. Ted Lilly is slated to face Yusmeiro Petit.