Game Fifty-One – Cubs 3 Braves 2 – 11 innings
WP – Angel Guzman (2-0) LP – Jeff Bennett (2-3) Save – Kevin Gregg (9)
The Cubs and Braves played free baseball for the second night in a row…with a much better outcome. Lou Piniella’s crew ended their two-game losing streak and seven-game road losing streak with their second extra innings win of the season (2-3).
Micah Hoffpauir delivered the game winner in the 11th inning…a pinch-hit, opposite field single on a 2-2 pitch from southpaw Eric O’Flaherty. But it was Derrek Lee that set up and scored the game-winning run.
Derrek Lee (2-for-3 with a run scored and two walks) worked a walk off of Jeff Bennett to start the inning. Mike Fontenot attempted to bunt him to second but ended up fouling out to left. Lee tagged from first, caught Matt Diaz off guard and advanced into scoring position. Reed Johnson followed with a single to left past a diving Chipper Jones. Lee had to hold but advanced to third.
Bobby Cox brought in the left-hander to face Micah Hoffpauir and he delivered once again.
After a brutal night for the Cubs’ pen on Tuesday, they tossed four scoreless innings in relief of Ted Lilly. Carlos Marmol retired the side in order in the eighth with a strikeout and no walks. Kevin Gregg sat the Braves down in order in the 11th for his ninth save of the season…but it was Angel Guzman that shinned on Wednesday night.
Angel Guzman tossed two scoreless innings and in the process earned his second career big league victory. Guzman was dominating at times and displayed some rare emotion when he struck out Chipper Jones looking to start the tenth. Guzman worked around an infield single to start the bottom of the ninth and faced the minimum in his two innings of work.
Ted Lilly pitched another great game, arguably his best on the road this season. Lilly allowed only two runs, one earned, on six hits in seven innings with a walk and seven strikeouts. Lilly allowed only two baserunners to reach through the first five and gave his team another quality start when they needed it most.
While the Cubs struggled with the fundamentals of the game again, they showed a lot of character in bouncing back from Tuesday night’s loss. Wednesday was the proverbial gut check time for this version of the Chicago Cubs…and while it might not have been pretty, or fundamentally sound, all wins look the same in the standings. The Cubs put together a good win on the road against a team that is very similar to theirs…very good starting pitching and an offense that has trouble plating runs.
The Cubs scored all of their runs before the 11th in the fourth off of Derek Lowe. Lowe hit Ryan Theriot in the ribs after retiring Alfonso Soriano on a groundout to third to start the inning. Kosuke Fukudome followed with a single to right. Derrek Lee walked on a controversial check swing on a 3-2 pitch from Lowe. The runners broke on the pitch and replays showed the Cubs caught a break. Theriot was called out at third but once the appeal was denied and Lee was given the free pass, the inning continued.
With the bases loaded and one out, Mike Fontenot lined Lowe’s first pitch into right center. The ball hit off the base of the wall and plated the game’s first two runs. Reed Johnson popped out and Koyie Hill looked at strike three to end the inning…and it looked like the Cubs’ failure to plate the runner from third with less than two outs would cost them another win.
Micah Hoffpauir delivered in the 11th…and Lou Piniella has to get him more playing time.
Ted Lilly was in cruise control until the sixth inning. He allowed only one hit, a double by Kelly Johnson to start the game and a four-pitch walk to Martin Prado in the fifth.
Johnson reached on a one-out single to left center in the sixth and Yunel Escobar followed with a single to right. Ryan Theriot robbed Matt Diaz of a single and a RBI with a great diving stop in the hole at short. Theriot threw out Escobar at second for the force.
Brian McCann followed with a single to left that plated Johnson with the Braves first run. After a swinging bunt by Martin Prado loaded the bases with two outs, Lilly struck out Jeff Francoeur to end the inning.
Lilly was left in to start the seventh and ended up allowing the tying run to score. Gregor Blanco reached on a bunt single down the third baseline that was later changed to a throwing error by Ted Lilly. Chipper Jones pinch-hit for Derek Lowe and tied the game with a double to center just over the head of Reed Johnson.
Ted Lilly struck out Kelly Johnson with the go ahead run on second and retired Escobar on a fly out to right to end the inning.
While the Cubs were unable to sacrifice runners into scoring position and Ryan Theriot was thrown out again trying to steal a bag, the Cubs defense played a huge role in the win. Ryan Theriot made several excellent plays at short. Kosuke Fukudome played his typical gold glove caliber right field and Derrek Lee scooped a low throw in the bottom of the 11th that kept the tying run from reaching to start the inning.
The Cubs improved to 2-20 on the season when they score less than four runs.
Carlos Zambrano will return from his suspension and face Jair Jurrjens in the series finale on Thursday night.