Z Bittersweet Victory – Cubs 6 Marlins 4

Game Twenty-Four – Cubs 6 Marlins 4
WP – Carlos Zambrano (3-1) LP – Ricky Nolasco (1-3) Save – Kevin Gregg (3)

wflag.jpgLou Piniella’s crew won their third game in a row for the second time this season on a day that began with the team honoring two of their greatest. Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux had their number 31 retired in pre-game ceremonies…with Jenkins’ flag joining Ernie Banks and Ron Santo on the left field foul pole and Maddux’s flag hoisted on the right field foul pole along with Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg.

Carlos Zambrano struggled a little with his command early on before he settled in. Five of the first eight Marlins’ hitters worked three ball counts on Big Z in the first two innings. Zambrano retired the Marlins in order in the second and third and faced the minimum in the fourth after Geovany Soto threw out Hanley Ramirez trying to steal second base.

With the game tied at two in the bottom of the fifth, Zambrano set the stage for the big inning with a beautiful bunt single that could have come at a big price. Zambrano hustled down the line and landed awkwardly on the bag. Z limped back to first holding his left hamstring. Mark O’Neal visited but Zambrano said it felt like a cramp and remained in the game…one pitch into Alfonso Soriano’s at bat, Zambrano lifted himself from the game.

Zambrano was diagnosed with a strained left hamstring. Following the game, Lou Piniella said the strain is in the belly of the hamstring and he will have a scan on Sunday night. The Cubs will know more on Monday.

Rich Harden pinch ran for Zambrano and advanced to second on a perfect bunt single up the third baseline by Ryan Theriot. Kosuke Fukudome hit the ball hard to right that Ross Gload could not handle, Fukudome was not given a hit but the bases were loaded for Derrek Lee.

Derrek Lee launched a 1-0 pitch from Ricky Nolasco just to the left of straight away center that hit the window of the batters eye. Lee’s ninth career grand slam and his first since May 19, 2007 (a pinch-hit grand slam against the White Sox) gave the Cubs a 6-2 lead. Lee received a curtain call but admitted after the game, “I did not know if I wanted to come out because they’ve been booing me.” Lee’s second home run in as many days is exactly what the Cubs’ struggling offense needed. The Cubs second grand slam of the series gave the bullpen a little breathing room after Zambrano left the game.

Mike Fontenot gave the Cubs a brief 2-1 lead in the fourth with his fourth home run of the week and fifth of the season. Geovany Soto drove the ball a lot better on Sunday, while he finished 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored he hit the ball to the opposite field with a lot more authority on Sunday afternoon.

Kosuke Fukudome made two game changing catches on Sunday…one in center in the sixth that robbed Dan Uggla of a bases-clearing double and a diving catch in right center to end the game. Fukudome was 0-for-4 with a run scored but continued to show improvement and patience at the plate.

The Cubs improved to 3-0 in May and 13-11 on the year with a solid series win against a very good Marlins’ team…

The Cubs more than built on the momentum created by Ryan Theriot’s Grand Slam on Friday. They have played like a different team since…improved defense, timely hitting and much better pitching. A day after Ted Lilly did not issue a single walk, Carlos Zambrano issued one free pass in five innings and the staff walked a total of three…much better than the walk parade of a week ago.

Carlos Zambrano ran up his pitch count in the first inning and fell behind three of the four batters he faced. The Marlins scored a run after single to center by Jeff Baker, a double to right center by Hanley Ramirez and a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jorge Cantu. With runners on second and third with one-out, Cantu hit a broken-bat grounder to Derrek Lee that he had to take to the bag himself…Z was late covering first due to the broken bat. Baker scored, 1-0 Marlins.

Zambrano settled down after the first inning. His command was much improved and he retired the Marlins in order in the second and third…and faced the minimum in the fourth.

The Marlins’ second run came on a strange play and a mistake by Geovany Soto in the fifth.

Jeremy Hermida led off the inning with a single to center on a 3-1 pitch (seventh three-ball count of the day for Zambrano) and advanced to second on a single to left by Cody Ross. Ross Gload hit a ball up the middle that was deflected by Zambrano. The Cubs tried to turn two, forced Ross at second and the Marlins had runners on first and third with one out.

Zambrano quickly got ahead of Ricky Nolasco after a failed bunt attempt and a swing and a miss. Nolasco then hit a tapper in front of the plate, Soto threw to first with Jeremy Hermida almost directly behind him. Zambrano saw what was happening but Soto did not and the tying run scored.

Big Z struck out Emilio Bonifacio to end the inning.

Zambrano finished the game after five innings, two runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

Angel Guzman gave up a run on a pair of hits in the sixth. A tremendous catch from Kosuke Fukudome on a ball hit by Dan Uggla kept the Marlins from possibly tying the game. With the bases loaded and no outs, Uggla hit a smash to center that Fukudome tracked down and a good throw from Aaron Miles to third would have thrown out a tagging Hanley Ramirez. Jeff Baker tagged and scored on the play.

Guzman retired Jeremy Hermida on a pop out to short and Cody Ross on a ground out to first to end the inning.

The Marlins sixth and final run scored on a solo home run by Jeff Baker off of Carlos Marmol in the eighth. Marmol struggled with his command again, but was effective. Other than the Baker homer, Marmol walked Hanley Ramirez…but struck out Jorge Cantu on a foul tip and Jeremy Hermida on three pitches.

Kevin Gregg made it interesting in the ninth after giving up a two-out single to Wes Helms. Gregg ran the count to 3-2 on the first two batters he faced, but retired both and the diving catch in right center by Kosuke ended the game.

The Cubs offense was sparked early on by a ‘Dirtbag‘ and ‘Little Babe Ruth‘. Geovany Soto reached on a two-out double in the second and scored on a double by Aaron Miles. The Cubs second run, a solo home run by Mike Fontenot…who after a rough three weeks, put together a solid series at the plate.

The Cubs won a big game…and hopefully it did not come at a big price.

Lou Piniella’s crew welcomes the Giants to town for a two-game series that starts on Monday night. Ryan Dempster against Jonathan Sanchez in game one with Sean Marshall facing Tim Lincecum in game two on Tuesday afternoon.

Quote of the Day

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein