Game Eighty – Cubs 4 Braves 2
WP – Randy Wells (4-3) LP – Jair Jurrjens (6-7) Save – Kevin Gregg (15)
The Cubs won for the fourth time on the homestand (4-1) behind another solid outing from Randy Wells. Wells became the first Cubs’ rookie to post four straight wins since Kerry Wood accomplished the feat from April 30-May 17, 1998. Wells allowed only two runs on seven hits in six innings … with no walks and four strikeouts. Wells even got into the act offensively. He singled and scored in the Cubs’ two-run second inning.
Derrek Lee continued pounding the ball on Monday night. After recording ten RBI in the four-game series against the Brewers, Lee gave the Cubs a two-run lead with one swing of the bat in the first inning. Lee ripped a 3-2 pitch from Jair Jurrjens into the left centerfield bleachers … the two-run shot was his 16th of the year and just the seventh longball served up by Jair Jurrjens this season.
Kosuke Fukudome recorded two more hits in leadoff spot. Fukudome is 5-for-11 out of the top spot in Lou Piniella’s lineup with a double, a triple, three runs scored, a walk and two RBI. Fukudome led off the game with a single and was on board for Derrek Lee’s home run.
Mike Fontenot started the two-out rally in the second that proved to be the difference in the game. Fontenot reached on a two-out single to center. Randy Wells followed with a single to left and Kosuke Fukudome doubled in Fontenot with the Cubs’ third run. Ryan Theriot plated Wells with an infield single to the hole at short. Fontenot, who had a horrible June, is 8-for-his-last-19 with three runs scored, two doubles, a RBI and a walk.
Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg did not allow a run over the last three innings and surrendered only two hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Monday night was only the second time all season that Lou Piniella had the everyday lineup on the field that he left Mesa with back in March. The Cubs won for the sixth time in their last eight games and for the first time since June 22 are two games over .500 with a 41-39 record … Randy Wells notched the Cubs 52nd quality start of the season, the most in the majors, with an impressive second outing against the Braves. Wells continued to show poise and confidence on the mound and for the ninth time out of 10 starts allowed less than three earned runs.
Wells bent but did not brake again. He pitched his way out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in the fourth. The main reason for Wells’ success so far has been his ability to pound the strike zone and limit his pitches. Wells began the sixth inning with a low pitch count of 75 and finished the night after throwing 87 in six innings, 56 for strikes.
Nate McLouth continued to kill Cubs’ pitching on Monday night. McLouth (3-for-5 with a home run) led off the game with a single to center on Wells’ second pitch of the game. Wells then retired the next three batters and got out of the first inning.
Yunel Escobar (2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored) reached on a one-out single to left center in the second inning. After Casey Kotchman flied out, Matt Diaz hit a deep fly to right on a 2-1 pitch. Milton Bradley made a game-changing catch in the ivy to end the inning.
Randy Wells retired the Braves in order in the third but ran into trouble in the fourth.
Chipper Jones and Brian McCann reached on back-to-back singles to start the fourth. Garrett Anderson hit a grounder on a 0-1 pitch to Derrek Lee. Lee threw to second and forced McCann but Anderson beat out the return throw from Ryan Theriot. Yunel Escobar followed with a single to center on a 1-0 pitch, Jones scored the Braves first run.
Casey Kotchman reached on a tough error by Randy Wells to load the bases with one-out. With the Cubs up by a score of 4-1, Wells struck out Matt Diaz swinging and Jair Jurrjens grounded out to short on the first pitch of the at bat to end the inning.
The Braves other run came on a solo shot by Nate McLouth to start the fifth … his 14th of the season and fifth as a Brave.
Following McLouth’s home run, the Braves managed just three more hits in the final four innings of the game.
The Cubs showed in the second that they are capable of manufacturing runs off of a very good pitcher. Alfonso Soriano led off the inning with a lineout to Chipper Jones and Geovany Soto flied out to right. Mike Fontenot singled to center on a 2-0 pitch. Randy Wells lined a single into right on a 1-1 pitch and with two outs the Cubs had runners on first and second.
Kosuke Fukudome doubled to right on a 1-0 pitch, Fontenot scored and Wells advanced to third. Ryan Theriot followed with a hard grounder to the hole at short. Yunel Escobar made a fine stop but could not get the ball out of his glove. Theriot hustled down the line and beat out the throw. Wells scored the Cubs fourth and final run.
The Cubs loaded the bags in the third inning with one-out and came away empty. After an excellent at bat, Milton Bradley walked. Aramis Ramirez lined out to third for the first out. Alfonso Soriano ripped a double into left center on a 2-1 pitch. Geovany Soto walked but Mike Fontenot hit a soft grounder to Kotchman at first and Bradley was forced at home. Escobar then robbed Randy Wells on a ball that appeared to be destined for left field. Escobar made his signature strong throw to first to end the inning.
The Cubs managed only two more hits after the third … a double by Derrek Lee in the seventh and a double by Geovany Soto in the eighth. The Cubs finished the night 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base.
The return of Aramis Ramirez appeared to fuel the Cubs offense for the first couple of innings. Ramirez finished the night 0-for-4 and stranded three on base. The Cubs survived the two months without Ramirez and posted a 24-25 record in the 49 games he missed.
Ryan Dempster is scheduled to face Javier Vazquez on Tuesday night.