Game Ninety-Seven – Cubs 5 Astros 1 – 13 innings
WP – Jeff Samardzija (1-1) LP – Chris Sampson (4-2) Save – None
And once again it was the Cubs’ patience at the plate that ended up scoring the winning run. Carlos Zambrano and Wandy Rodriguez locked in an ole fashion pitcher’s duel Monday night at Wrigley with the wind blowing out. Both pitchers made only one mistake … a booming home run by Carlos Lee in the second inning and Derrek Lee’s 20th longball of the year in the fourth that landed on Waveland. Neither team could manage another run, and both had plenty of chances, until the 13th inning.
Derrek Lee (2-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored and three walks) took a four-pitch walk from Chris Sampson. Aramis Ramirez (3-for-6 with double and a run scored) followed and looked at three straight out of the zone before taking a strike. On a 3-2 pitch with Lee running, Ramirez singled to left. Lee ended up at third and Cecil Cooper intentionally walked Milton Bradley (1-for-4 with two walks and a run scored) to load the bases … with no outs.
Alfonso Soriano stepped in and with a 0-for-5 night under his belt, that included three strikeouts. Soriano looked at ball one from Sampson then ended the game. Soriano launched a bomb over the wall in center that hit the roof of the batter’s eye as the Astros’ position players were leaving the field. Soriano pointed, Santo screamed and the Cubs celebrated their fifth win in a row … Soriano’s third career extra inning walk-off home run.
The Cubs’ bullpen put together a tremendous effort in relief of Carlos Zambrano. Aaron Heilman and Carlos Marmol got the job done in the eighth and ninth innings. Heilman retired the side in order with a strikeout and Marmol gave up a hit but struck out two of the four batters he faced.
Jeff Stevens was impressive once again. He allowed a hit and intentionally walked Carlos Lee in the 11th but struck out three in 1 2/3 innings. Sean Marshall replaced Stevens with two on and two outs in the 11th. Marshall struck out Geoff Blum swinging on three pitches to end the inning … and get out of the jam.
Jeff Samardzija picked up his first win of the season with two innings of scoreless ball. Samardzija gave up a pair of hits and a walk but made the big pitch to Carlos Lee when he needed it. With two on and two outs in the 13th, Lee grounded into a 6-4-3 inning ending double play.
The line for the Cubs pen without Kevin Gregg and Angel Guzman: six innings, no runs, five hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.
Carlos Zambrano did not pick up the win but kept it together after the towering homer by Carlos Lee. Zambrano gave up just one run on three hits with four walks and four strikeouts in seven innings.
The Cubs tied their season-high mark of seven games over .500 with Monday’s win and improved to 7-6 in extra inning games with their fifth win in a row. There never seems to be a dull moment with Lou Piniella’s crew … and it was more of the same on Monday. The Cubs had a chance to win the game in the ninth inning after they loaded the bases with one-out against Jose Valverde.
Milton Bradley walked to start the inning. Alfonso Soriano worked the count to 3-2 before striking out, Bradley got a good jump against Valverde and beat Ivan Rodriguez’s throw to second. Cecil Cooper intentionally walked pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir to set up the double play.
Kosuke Fukudome hit for Koyie Hill and walked on five pitches to load the bases.
Lou Piniella inserted Mike Fontenot for Carlos Marmol and on a 1-1 pitch called for the suicide squeeze. Fontenot bunted through the fastball and Milton Bradley was hung out to dry. Rodriguez tagged out Bradley three quarters of the way down the third base line and threw to third. Hoffpauir beat his throw but Fontenot flied out to right center to end the inning.
Following the game, Piniella said forget the squeeze and began to explain that the ball must at least be fouled off in that spot … then reiterated to forget the squeeze and move on.
Carlos Zambrano turned in a good outing and another quality start after Derrek Lee calmed him down. Big Z retired the Astros in short order in the first inning then began the second by serving up the blast to Carlos Lee.
Lee’s home run went further than Soriano’s grand slam and Zambrano was extremely upset afterwards. Geoff Blum ended up tapping back to Zambrano on a 3-1 pitch. Zambrano threw a fastball to Derrek Lee then received a visit from Lee and Koyie Hill. They were able to calm down Zambrano and he did not allow another hit until the seventh inning … a one-out single by Carlos Lee.
Zambrano struggled with his command in the seventh and was behind every hitter he faced. Hunter Pence reached on a two-out single to center that advanced Lee to third. Zambrano collected himself and struck out Chris Coste swinging to end the inning.
The Astros had plenty of chances late in the game … the Cubs’ pen bent but never broke.
On a side note … Lou Piniella commented on the fine job Jake Fox did behind the plate over the final three innings, including the snag on the high fastball from Jeff Samardzija with Carlos Lee at the plate in the 13th that kept the double play in order.
Monday was a good win … is there such a thing as a bad one?
Ryan Dempster will be activated from the 15-day DL on Tuesday and face Roy Oswalt … get ready, it could be a wild one.