Where Have You Been Rich Harden? – Cubs 3 Pirates 1

Game Seventy-Three – Cubs 3 Pirates 1
WP – Rich Harden (5-4) LP – Zach Duke (8-6) Save – Kevin Gregg (13)

wflag.jpgThe Cubs won their first game of the year in the Steel City behind Rich Harden’s best outing of the season. Harden gave up nine hits, all from the fourth inning on, but struck out nine with only one walk … and one earned run. Harden struck out the side twice and pitched out of jams in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

Carlos Marmol, circa 2008, showed up in the eighth and was dominant against the heart of the Pirates order. Marmol retired all three hitters on eight pitches, seven for strikes, with a ground out and two fly ball outs. Kevin Gregg sat down the Pirates in order in the ninth despite running the count full on both Jack Wilson and Eric Hinske.

Marmol and Gregg picked up where Harden left off and really challenged the hitters.

Andres Blanco drove in the game’s first run with a two-out single in the second inning. Jake Fox (2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored) singled, advanced to second on a single by Geovany Soto and scored on Blanco’s liner to center.

Ryan Theriot hit his seventh home run of the season in the third off Zach Duke. Theriot’s solo shot to left gave the Cubs a two-run lead … and Rich Harden a little cushion. Milton Bradley, hitting out of the sixth spot in Lou Piniella’s lineup, drove in the Cubs third run in the fourth with a double to left center. One of Bradley’s hardest hit balls of the year split the Pirates outfielders and it rolled all the way to the wall. Geovany Soto (1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored) made it all the way home from first.

After a weekend full of controversy, Milton Bradley had four of his better at bats of the year Monday night in Pittsburgh. He finished the game 2-for-4 with a RBI (his first since June 12 and third of the month) and hit the ball hard all night. Adam LaRoche took away a single from Bradley in the eighth that would have been his third hit of the game.

For as efficient as the offense was against Zach Duke, Monday night was all about Rich Hardenand getting a win.

Rich Harden found a groove early and did not allow his first baserunner until a one-out walk to Jack Wilson in the third inning. Harden rebounded and struck out Andrew McCutchen to end the inning.

Nyjer Morgan led off the fourth with the Pirates’ first hit and they tacked on eight more against Harden before he left after seven. While the nine hits surrendered by Harden was a season-high, the Pirates did a lot of ‘dinking and dumping‘ against Harden … four of the nine were bloop singles or infield hits and Andy LaRoche recorded the only extra base knock, a double of the base of the wall in right center.

Harden appeared to have his out-pitch going on Monday. After Andy LaRoche doubled to start the fifth, Jason Jaramillo bounced back to the mound. Harden knocked it down and ran to first for the out. LaRoche advanced to third and scored the Pirates only run on a groundout to second by Jack Wilson.

Zach Duke followed with a single to right and Andrew McCutchen reached on an infield single to the hole at first. Nyjer Morgan followed with a bloop single to left that loaded the bases. Harden quickly got ahead of Freddy Sanchez, 0-2, before he tapped back to the mound to end the inning.

Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche reached on back-to-back singles in the sixth with one out. Harden then struck out Jason Jaramillo and Jack Wilson swinging to end the inning.

And in the seventh with his pitch count elevating, Harden gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Ramon Vazquez but retired McCutchen on a fly out to center. With one out and the Cubs up by two, Nyjer Morgan singled to center. Freddy Sanchez looked at ball one then grounded into a 6-4-3 inning ending double play.

Rich Harden left after seven strong innings for only the second time this season (May 6 in Houston) on 102 pitches, 65 for strikes.

The Cubs scored all of the runs in the second, third and fourth innings. Jake Fox scored the first run after leading off the second with a single to right. Geovany Soto followed with a single to left on the next pitch from Zach Duketwo pitches, two hits. Milton Bradley flied out to left and Ryan Freel struck out swinging. It appeared it was going to be another long night.

Andres Blanco lined a single to center on a 0-2 pitch. Jake Fox rumbled around third and slid in on a very close play at the plate. Andrew McCutchen threw the ball too high or Fox would have been the third out of the inning. Soto and Blanco advanced on the throw but Adam LaRoche took a single away from Rich Harden to end the inning.

Ryan Theriot jumped on a 1-0 pitch with one out in the third and lined it over the wall in left. It was Theriot’s seventh of the year, his second career dinger outside of Wrigley and his first since June 7.

Once again the Cubs patience paid dividends in the fourth. The Cubs only walk against Zach Duke scored … and it was Geovany Soto after he started the at bat in a 1-2 hole. Milton Bradley followed with a double to left center on a 1-2 pitch. Bradley must hit for the Cubs to win and maybe Monday will get him started.

The Cubs won for the second time on their current 10-game road trip (2-6) and with two games left they could build a lot of confidence before heading back to the Friendly Confines. While the Cubs did not light up the scoreboard, they beat an excellent pitcher in his own ballpark, something that had not happened too often before Monday (6-2 at PNC before Monday with a 2.64 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP).

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Ted Lilly is scheduled to face Ross Ohlendorf on Tuesday night.

Quote of the Day

"The man says 'play ball' not 'work ball,' you know." - Willie Stargell
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