Game Fifty-Five – Cubs 7 Astros 1
WP – Ted Lilly (7-4) LP – Brian Moehler (2-4) Save – None
Lou Piniella’s crew improved to 6-2 on the season against the Astros with an impressive win on Tuesday night. The Cubs offense came out swinging against Brian Moehler and staked Ted Lilly to a 3-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.
The Cubs scored five runs in the first three innings, seven on the night and tied a season-high with 16 hits to go along with eight walks. While the Cubs scored more than enough to back ‘The Bulldog‘, they left 16 on base and were 6-for-19 with runners in scoring position … after starting the game 4-for-5.
Ted Lilly pitched another gem against a very good offensive team. Lilly did not allow his second hit of the game until the sixth inning … a two-out single by Miguel Tejada. Lilly tossed 6 2/3 of shutout ball and allowed only three hits with two walks and four strikeouts … on a season-high 114 pitches. Lilly improved to 3-0 against the Astros on the year and even got into the act offensively. Lilly led off the second with his first career triple and scored the Cubs fourth run of the game.
The Cubs offense clicked on all cylinders for the most part on Tuesday night. Mike Fontenot recorded four hits in five trips to the plate on his 29th birthday, scored a pair of runs and hit his sixth home run of the season. Kosuke Fukudome reached base five times with two hits, two walks and a fielder’s choice. Fukudome drove in the game’s first run and recorded two RBI on the night.
The bottom of the Cubs lineup was the difference against the Astros on Tuesday night. Mike Fontenot (4-for-5 with a RBI, a double, a home run and two runs scored), Geovany Soto (3-for-5 with a RBI) and Andres Blanco (2-for-4 with a double, a walk and two RBI) were a combined 9-for-14 with two doubles, a home run, a walk, two runs scored and four RBI.
Milton Bradley was not in the original lineup but talked his way onto the field following batting practice. Bradley finished the night a dismal 0-for-6 with three strikeouts, a broken bat and grounded into a double play while leaving a total of ten runners on base. As bad as Bradley was at the plate he made a terrific diving catch in the bottom of the ninth for the first out of the inning with his team up 7-0.
Aaron Heilman put together one of his better outings of the year. Heilman gave up a hit to go along with two strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings of work. Heilman threw the ball extremely well and of the 16 pitches he tossed, 13 were for strikes.
Sean Marshall pitched the ninth in what appears to be his new role out of the pen. Lance Berkman hit his 11th homer of the season with one-out that accounted for the Astros’ only run…and broke up the shutout.
The Cubs improved to three games over .500 with their second win a row…and the fourth in their last five. After playing four extra inning games in five days, the Cubs appeared a lot more energetic after getting a little time away on Monday. While they won two of three in Cincinnati over the weekend, they looked tired and appeared to be going through the motions at times … but not on Tuesday night. The Cubs came out swinging, while showing patience at the same time, and Alfonso Soriano got it all started.
Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a double down the third base line that kicked off the sidewall. Ryan Theriot flied out to center but Soriano tagged and advanced to third. Kosuke Fukudome followed with a double to right that a fan touched … the ground rule double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Derrek Lee singled to right center on a 2-1 pitch from Brian Moehler. Fukudome scored but Milton Bradley looked at strike three for the second out.
Mike Fontenot worked the count to 3-2 before lining a single into right center. Lee advanced to third and scored on a two-out single to left by Geovany Soto. Andres Blanco followed with a single to center on a 0-2 pitch, but Michael Bourn threw out Fontenot at the plate to end the inning. It was the right call by Mike Quade to send Fontenot with Ted Lilly due up next.
Ted Lilly led off the second with his first career triple to right center on a 3-2 pitch. Lilly stumbled around first but ended up sliding head first into the bag at third. Soriano grounded out to Jeff Keppinger at third for the first out of the inning.
Ryan Theriot worked a walk and Kosuke hit a routine grounder to second on a 3-2 pitch. With Theriot running, Edwin Maysonet had only one play, but he looked home first. By the time he realized he could not throw out Lilly at the plate, he rushed his throw to first and it was wide of Lance Berkman. Theriot advanced to third on the error and Fukudome ended up at second.
The Astros intentionally walked Derrek Lee to load the bases with one-out, down by a score of 4-0. After receiving two gifts from homeplate umpire, Paul Nauert that ran the count to 3-2, Bradley grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Mike Fontenot led off the third with his sixth home run of the season…an opposite field shot into the Crawford Boxes.
The Cubs left runners on second and third in the fourth after Bradley fouled out to Lance Berkman to end the inning … and Ryan Theriot fouled out to Berkman to end the fifth with the bases loaded. With the Astros dangerous offense, early on it appeared the Cubs were leaving them in the game.
Derrek Lee walked on four pitches with one-out in the sixth. Milton Bradley struck out swinging for the second out, slammed his bat on the plate and broke it into two pieces. Mike Fontenot followed with a two-out single to right. Geovany Soto singled to left on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases.
With the Cubs up by a score of 5-0 and two outs in the sixth, Andres Blanco might have bought himself a little more time in the big leagues. Blanco drove in the Cubs’ last two runs with a ground rule double down the right field line … on the first pitch of the at bat.
The Cubs needed a win like the one they got on Tuesday night. They played only nine innings and only once did the Astros put two men on base in the same inning.
Carlos Zambrano is slated to face Wandy Rodriguez on Wednesday night. Aaron Miles was in Houston Tuesday night and will be activated on Wednesday … Bobby Scales, Andres Blanco or Jake Fox (1-for-1 on Tuesday with a double) will likely be sent to Iowa to make room for Miles on the active roster.