Game Forty-Five – Cubs 5 Pirates 2
WP – Carlos Marmol (1-1) LP – Jesse Chavez (0-2) Save – Kevin Gregg (7)
Could the Cubs have a new leader in the clubhouse? Two days after verbally kicking Milton Bradley in the butt, Reed Johnson let his glove and bat do the talking on Wednesday afternoon…and lifted his team to a big victory after Carlos Zambrano was ejected in the seventh inning.
The Cubs number one pitcher put together a fine outing, despite struggling with his command in the second inning. Zambrano got himself into trouble on a couple of occasions but got out of it. Zambrano allowed only one run on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts in the first six innings…and was on his way to winning his 100th game as a Cub.
Zambrano took the hill to start the seventh up by a score of 2-1. Nyjer Morgan led off with a single to left that was misplayed by Alfonso Soriano. Morgan ended up at third with the tying run. Zambrano retired Delwyn Young on a foul out to Geovany Soto and threw strike one to Nate McLouth…
Big Z’s next pitch was in the dirt and got away from Geovany Soto just far enough for the speedy Morgan to try to score. Soto got to the ball, flipped it to Zambrano and he tagged Morgan as his left hand was touching the plate. Homeplate umpire Mark Carlson called Morgan safe, replays showed it was the right call, and Zambrano lost his temper.
Zambrano ended up bumping Carlson, which will cost him a start or two. Replays showed the Homeplate umpire moved toward Zambrano that resulted in the contact. Lou Piniella tried to restrain Zambrano before Larry Rothschild pulled him away. Zambrano threw the ball in his hands to the warning track in left, threw his glove at the barrier in front of the Cubs dugout then finished the job Ryan Dempster started on Monday…Zambrano destroyed the Cubs’ new Gatorade Machine with a bat.
After the smoke cleared, Angel Guzman replaced Zambrano and retired McLouth on the first pitch. Then Reed Johnson made a terrific catch on a ball hit by Adam LaRoche to straight away center. Johnson drifted back, ended up in the ivy and kept the momentum in the game from changing in favor of the Pirates.
Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless eighth and Reed Johnson came out swinging in the bottom of the inning.
With one-out in the bottom of the eighth, Reed Johnson jump-started the Cubs offense with his second home run of the year…and second in his last three starts. Johnson launched a 1-1 pitch from Jesse Chavez into the bleachers in left center.
Geovany Soto followed with a single to right and scored on a double down the right field line by Andres Blanco…who was hitting left-handed against southpaw Sean Burnett. Jake Fox finally got an at bat in the big leagues and ripped a 3-2 pitch to right center for his first hit of the year. Blanco and Fox’s back-to-back doubles gave the Cubs a much-needed cushion going into the ninth.
Kevin Gregg picked up his seventh save of the season…and his first since May 10, but it was not pretty. Gregg walked pinch-hitter Freddy Sanchez to start the inning. Nyjer Morgan followed with a deep fly to right that Sanchez somehow misread. Milton Bradley caught the ball on the warning track and double off Sanchez at first…he was all the way at third base when Bradley caught the ball. Gregg issued his second walk of the inning to Delwyn Young…but struck out Nate McLouth to end the game.
Lou Piniella’s crew improved to a game over .500 with the win…on Pat Hughes’ 54th birthday. Ryan Freel started Wednesday’s game at third base but was replaced in the bottom of the fifth by Mike Fontenot. Freel strained his left hamstring…which could mean the return of Bobby Scales.
The Cubs won for only the third time this season when they commit at least one error (3-16) and turned another dramatic game into a positive win.
Ryan Theriot scored the game’s first run after a one-out single to left field in the first inning. Milton Bradley followed with his first triple of the year to the corner in right…Theriot scored easily from first.
The Pirates defense gave the Cubs their second run after failing to turn an inning ending double play in the first. Derrek Lee walked following Bradley’s triple and Reed Johnson hit what appeared to be a tailor made double play ball to short…but Delwyn Young threw the ball away. Bradley scored, 2-0 Cubs.
After the botched double play ball allowed the Cubs’ second run to score, Zach Duke shut the door and did not allow another run in his final six innings of work. The Cubs had chances and failed to convert a couple of times. They left eight on base and were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Carlos Zambrano pitched a perfect first inning then struggled with his command in the second. Zambrano walked the LaRoche brothers to start the inning then gave up a one-out single to Ramon Vazquez to load the bases.
Zambrano got control of himself and retired Jason Jaramillo on a pop out to Ryan Theriot. Zach Duke then lined out to first to end the inning.
The Pirates cut the Cubs lead in half in the fourth. Adam LaRoche led off with a single to center. Andy LaRoche grounded into a 1-4-3 fielder’s choice and Brandon Moss popped out to short…but Ramon Vazquez singled to left with two outs, Adam LaRoche scored.
Carlos Zambrano walked the tightrope again in the fifth. Zach Duke and Nyjer Morgan led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Zambrano struck out Young for the third time then retired McLouth on a ground out to first. With runners on second and third with two outs, Piniella made the slow walk and they decided to intentionally walk Adam LaRoche. Andy LaRoche grounded out to second to end the inning.
A win is a win and maybe Zambrano’s act will fire up his team heading into an important four-game series against the Dodgers.
Randy Wells will face Randy Wolf on Thursday night in the first of four against Joe Torre’s red-hot Dodgers.