Game Ninety-Five – Cubs 5 Reds 3
WP – Kevin Hart (2-1) LP – Johnny Cueto (8-7) Save – Kevin Gregg (20)
Lou Piniella’s crew won their third game in a row behind a very good outing by Kevin Hart … and three more home runs from the Cubs’ offense. Aramis Ramirez delivered the game winner for the second game in a row. Following a game-tying triple by Derrek Lee in the first, Aramis Ramirez ripped a 1-1 pitch from Johnny Cueto into the bleachers in left. Ramirez’s seventh of the year gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Alfonso Soriano continued hitting out of the sixth spot in Lou Piniella’s lineup. Soriano put together a 3-for-4 afternoon at the plate and his 17th home run of the year in the fifth gave the Cubs a much-needed insurance run.
Milton Bradley came off the bench in the bottom of the eighth and lined the first pitch from David Weathers into the basket in left center. Bradley’s first career pinch-hit homer gave the Cubs a 5-1 lead … his first longball since July 4.
The Cubs would end up needing the homers from Soriano and Bradley.
Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol dominated the Reds in the seventh and eighth innings but after the Bradley homer, Piniella decided to insert Aaron Heilman instead of Kevin Gregg to start the ninth. Heilman gave up a solo home run to Joey Votto, the 11th of his career off of Cubs’ pitching, and a two-out dinger to left by Jonny Gomes. Piniella brought in Kevin Gregg to get the final out.
Kevin Gregg retired Jerry Hairston, Jr. on a ground out to short to end the game.
Derrek Lee left the game in the eighth inning with neck spasms once again. Jake Fox replaced Lee and Lou Piniella said after the game that if Lee cannot go on Sunday than either Fox or Micah Hoffpauir would sub for Lee. According to Piniella, Lee’s neck locked up on him when he slid into second trying to break up a double play in the sixth.
The Cubs improved to 9-0 in July and 25-7 on the year when they pound out 10 or more hits. Lou Piniella’s crew is 9-3 in their last 12 games and improved to 29-18 at Wrigley this season … with the win the Cubs improved to five games over .500 for the first time since May 19 when they were 21-16. For as bad and inconsistent as Kevin Hart was in his first two starts of the year, he was equally as good on Saturday after the first inning. The Reds showed a lot of patience against Hart to start the game and the play of the afternoon might have been against the game’s first hitter.
Chris Dickerson blooped a single into center on a 2-1 pitch from Kevin Hart. Reed Johnson tried to make a diving catch, just missed and trapped the ball. Dickerson tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second.
Willy Taveras followed with a single to center then stole second and third with Joey Votto at the plate. Votto drove in Taveras on a fly out to left on a 3-2 pitch. Hart then walked Brandon Phillips.
The extremely long first inning came to and end when Edwin Encarnacion grounded out to third. Hart tossed 22 pitches in the opening frame, only 10 for strikes, and it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon.
After Hart was given a 3-1 lead, he finally pitched to his potential. Hart put together the all-important shutdown inning in the second. He retired the Reds three-up and three-down on just 12 pitches.
Kevin Hart sat down the Reds in order once again in the third, on just 11 pitches and appeared to find a groove. Joey Votto, who continued his onslaught against Cubs’ pitching, doubled to left to start the fourth. After a groundout up the middle by Brandon Phillips advanced Votto to third with one out, Hart made a nice play on a one-hopper up the middle by Edwin Encarnacion. Hart grabbed the chopper with his bare-hand, checked Votto at third and threw out Encarnacion for the second out.
Jonny Gomes struck out swinging to end the inning. After four complete, Hart tossed 61 pitches … 36 for strikes.
Hart worked around a leadoff single by Jerry Hairston, Jr. in the fifth by striking out Chris Dickerson to end the inning. Hart completed his finest start in the big leagues by escaping the sixth. Brandon Phillips reached on a two-out single to right then Edwin Encarnacion flied out to deep left to end the inning … Soriano’s back was against the ivy.
Kevin Hart finished his day after six innings … one run on five hits with four strikeouts and only one walk.
Angel Guzman was impressive once again with a 1-2-3 seventh inning that included a strikeout. Carlos Marmol was nasty in the eighth … he struck out the side swinging on 17 pitches, 14 for strikes.
The Cubs jumped on Johnny Cueto in the first inning … but they were aggressively patient. Reed Johnson doubled to left on a 2-1 pitch. Ryan Theriot sacrificed Johnson to third. Derrek Lee followed with what appeared to be a bloop single to right center on a 2-1 pitch. The ball fell in between Willy Taveras and Chris Dickerson and rolled past the Reds’ outfielders. Johnson scored easily. Lee ended up at third with a triple … he hustled out of the box and just beat the throw.
Aramis Ramirez stepped in and knocked his seventh of the year, a two-run shot to left on a 1-1 pitch. Alfonso Soriano followed with a single to left on a 3-1 pitch and Mike Fontenot walked on four pitches.
With the bases loaded and one out, Koyie Hill swung at the first pitch and popped out to short. Kevin Hart worked the count to 3-2 before eventually striking out to end the inning. Johnny Cueto allowed hits to five of the first six hitters he faced and threw 34 pitches, 16 for strikes … the Cubs sent nine to the dish. Johnny Cueto’s ERA in the first inning this season, 9.61.
Cueto retired the Cubs in order in the second thanks to a leaping catch by Willy Taveras on a ball hit by Reed Johnson. The Cubs continued to put pressure on Cueto in the third … and more importantly they ran up his pitch count.
Aramis Ramirez walked to start the third after Brandon Phillips dropped a foul ball on a 0-1 pitch. Kosuke Fukudome lined out to Joey Votto but Soriano singled to left on a 1-1 pitch. Koyie Hill then walked with two outs to load the bases. Kevin Hart stepped in and lined the first offering into right. Chris Dickerson made a tremendous diving catch that robbed Hart and ended the inning.
After a quiet and quick fourth, Alfonso Soriano gave the Cubs a 4-1 lead with one out in the fifth. Cueto retired Koyie Hill with a swinging strikeout to end the fifth on his 94th pitch of the afternoon.
The Cubs loaded the bases again in the sixth … and came up empty. Micah Hoffpauir pinch hit for Kevin Hart and reached on an error by Johnny Cueto. Following a fly out by Reed Johnson, Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single to left on a 1-0 offering. Derrek Lee singled to left. Mike Quade held Hoffpauir at third and the bases were loaded with one-out.
Aramis Ramirez grounded into a 5-4-3 inning ending double play on the first pitch from Cueto.
While the Cubs left nine on base Saturday afternoon and finished the game 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position, Kevin Hart stranded six of the nine batters.
Saturday was a solid win and a very good, well-timed start by Kevin Hart. The Cubs improved to 7-2 since the break with their fifth victory in eight games against the Reds.
Rich Harden is slated to face Micah Owings in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.