Game Thirty-Five – Cubs 5 Astros 4
WP – Sean Marshall (2-2) LP – LaTroy Hawkins (1-1) Save – None
Randy Wells tossed six innings of shutout ball and appeared to be in line for his first big league victory. Once again Wells pitched out of jams in the early innings before settling down. Wells gave up only four hits, walked three, struck out four and retired nine of the last ten batters he faced. With the six-shutout innings on Saturday, Wells has not allowed an earned run at the Major League level and ran his scoreless innings streak to 16 1/3 innings.
Derrek Lee drove in the game’s first run with a two-out single to left in the sixth inning and was on board for Micah Hoffpauir’s fourth longball of the year.
With the Cubs up by a score of 3-0, Piniella turned the ball over to his bullpen to start the seventh. Angel Guzman retired all three batters he faced with an efficient 10-pitch inning. Carlos Marmol struck out the side in the eighth for his eleventh hold of the year.
Geovany Soto tacked on an important run in the eighth with a two-out infield single that plated Kosuke Fukudome…the first four runs were scored with two outs.
The Cubs had a 4-0 lead going into the top of the ninth when Kevin Gregg took the ball. Gregg served up back-to-back home runs to Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee that cut the Cubs lead to 4-2. After back-to-back singles by Miguel Tejada and Hunter Pence, Gregg hit Geoff Blum on a 1-2 pitch and loaded the bases with no outs
Lou Piniella brought in Aaron Heilman to face Ivan Rodriguez with no outs and the bases loaded. Rodriguez singled to left on the first pitch and tied the game at four. Heilman retired Jason Michaels (Michaels for some reason was not bunting with runners on first and second and no outs) and Kaz Matsui on fly outs to Kosuke Fukudome in right before walking Michael Bourn to load the bases.
Sean Marshall was summoned from the pen to turn Lance Berkman around. Marshall missed on the first two pitches of the at bat, then induced a ground out to Aaron Miles at second to end the inning.
After the bullpen blew the lead in the top of the ninth, Bobby Scales led off the inning with an impressive at bat against LaTroy Hawkins. Scales worked a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Miles.
Cecil Cooper decided to pitch to Alfonso Soriano with first base open. Hawkins got ahead 0-2 before Soriano blooped a single into right, Hunter Pence could not get to the ball and Scales slid home head first with the game winner.
The Cubs won their fifth in a row and improved to a season-high seven games over .500 with a dramatic ninth inning win…that should have been saved for another day. Lou Piniella said last weekend that his number one priority was to correct the problems in the bullpen. After a nice stretch the pen appeared to be falling into place…then Saturday afternoon happened. While Lou caught flack from the media for putting Sean Marshall into the pen and skipping his start, without Marshall in the pen Neal Cotts would have been called on to turn Lance Berkman around.
The bullpen is a work in progress and if Angel Guzman keeps pitching the way he has Piniella will have another dependable option that might allow him to change Kevin Gregg’s role.
With the implosion of Kevin Gregg and the walk-off single by Alfonso Soriano, the performance of Randy Wells will be looked over. Wells pitched a very good game despite the early troubles.
Wells retired the Astros in order in the first then labored through the second inning. After a double play off the bat of Miguel Tejada erased a leadoff single by Carlos Lee, Wells walked Hunter Pence.
Geoff Blum put together a 10-pitch at bat that resulted in a single to right. Ivan Rodriguez walked to load the bases. Wells retired Roy Oswalt on a tap back to the mound.
After a two-out walk by Lance Berkman and a single to center by Carlos Lee in the third, Randy Wells caught a break when Miguel Tejada fouled off a high and tight pitch than ran the count to 2-2. Tejada grounded out to Wells to end the inning.
The Astros managed only one hit off Wells after the third inning…and the leadoff single by Lance Berkman was erased on a 5-4-3 double play. Bobby Scales made a great turn and Derrek Lee scooped the low throw out of the dirt.
Randy Wells should be 2-0 after his first two Major League starts.
Roy Oswalt brought his A-game with him on Saturday. The Cubs managed only two hits and no walks through the first five innings.
Alfonso Soriano led off the sixth with a bloop single to right that fell in the middle of Lance Berkman, Kaz Matsui and Hunter Pence. Ryan Theriot sacrificed Soriano to second. Kosuke Fukudome hit a deep fly to center that advanced Soriano to third…a productive out.
Derrek Lee came through with his first hit of the homestand…a two-out, RBI single to left that plated Soriano. Micah Hoffpauir followed with his fourth home run of the season.
The Cubs fourth run came in the eighth after back-to-back one-out walks by Kosuke Fukudome and Derrek Lee. Reed Johnson hit for Hoffpauir and grounded out to second. Lee was forced for the second out of the inning. Geovany Soto reached on a rare infield single to the hole at short. Tejada’s throw was late and Fukudome scored.
The Cubs played better fundamental ball on Saturday. Two sacrifice bunts that led to runs. Productive outs that advanced runners and walks that led to their last two runs of the game. Every at bat and every inning counts…and the Cubs played a complete nine innings on Saturday.
Rich Harden is scheduled to face Brian Moehler in the finale of the two-game series on Sunday.