A Good Day (Game) for Harden and the First Place Cubs – Cubs 5 Reds 2

Game Ninety-Six – Cubs 5 Reds 2
WP – Rich Harden (7-6) LP – Micah Owings (6-11) Save – Kevin Gregg (21)

wflag.jpgFor the first time this season, the Chicago Cubs are in first place in the National League Central Divisionall by themselves. The Cubs swept the Reds behind the best outing of the season for Rich Harden at Wrigley Field. Harden dominated the Reds in his six innings of work. The Reds managed only one hit off Harden, a solo home run in the first inning by Joey Votto the 12th home run of Votto’s career off of Cubs’ pitching.

Rich Harden went into cruise control after the Votto home run, he did not allow another hit or baserunner while striking out eight … including four in a row at one stretch. Lou Piniella more than received the outing he needed from Rich Harden.

Rich Harden faced one over the minimum in his six dominating innings of work.

The Cubs offense was sparked by three walks … two by Milton Bradley. Bradley put together another good game at the dish, despite looking at strike three on a borderline pitch in the seventh inning. Bradley turned in a good play in the field on a foul ball in the fifth and his slide at the plate in the third gave the Cubs the lead.

Milton Bradley led off the second with a walk and scored the tying run after Micah Owings walked Kosuke Fukudome with the bases loaded. Bradley then worked a two-out walk in the third and scored on a double off the ivy in left by Alfonso Soriano. Bradley scored all the way from first and made a nice hook slide to avoid Craig Tatum’s tag … Bradley slapped the dish with his hand, the eventual game winner.

Jake Fox, who on any other day would have knocked three home runs, blooped a single into right center in the seventh that gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead.

The Cubs caught a break in the eighth inning. Angel Guzman struggled with his command and ended up walking the bases loaded … with one out. Jerry Hairston, Jr. hit what appeared to be a sacrifice fly to short right center. Edwin Encarnacion tagged and tried to score from third. Kosuke Fukudome’s throw barely beat Encarnacion and homeplate umpire Laz Diaz called him out to end the inning. The key to the play was the throw from Fukudome but replays showed the call went the Cubs way … Koyie Hill never tagged him.

The Cubs tacked on a pair in the bottom of the eighth to put the game out of reach. Reed Johnson singled and scored on Koyie Hill’s first career triple. Kosuke Fukudome drove in Hill with a one-out single to right center off the southpaw Arthur Rhoades.

Kosuke Fukudome extended his career-high hitting streak to nine games … and Ryan Theriot (2-for-5 with a run scored) extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single in the first inning.

The Cubs improved to 10-0 in July and 26-7 on the year when they pound out 10 or more hits. With the win and sweep of the Reds, the Cubs improved to six games over .500 for the first time since May 18.

Rich Harden picked up his first win at Wrigley since May 12 (and his first win at Wrigley in a day start since last August) with his best outing during the day of the year… and arguably his best overall start of the season. If Lou Piniella can get the Rich Harden that has taken the mound in the second half for the remainder of the year, his starting staff will have one less hole to fill.

Rich Harden did not throw a single pitch out of the stretch and threw just 90 pitches in the game, 61 for strikes … and 10 of his 90 pitches were thrown to the first hitter of the game, Chris Dickerson, before Dickerson eventually tapped back to Harden.

Harden threw strikes all afternoon. The Reds worked three-ball counts only twice and seven of his eight strikeouts were of the swing and miss variety. Harden stuck out the side in the third.

Rich Harden left after six innings and one run on one hit without a walk and eight strikeouts.

Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman took care of the Reds in the seventh … three up three down. Guzman ran into trouble in the eighth and was bailed out on a call at the plate.

Edwin Encarnacion walked to start the eighth … the Reds’ first free pass of the game. Guzman struck out Jonny Gomes but Laynce Nix blooped a single into right on a 3-2 pitch, the Reds second hit of the game. Guzman continued to struggle and walked Craig Tatum to load the bases.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. followed with a fly to short right center on a 0-1 pitch. Kosuke Fukudome caught the ball and made a strong throw to the plate. Koyie Hill blocked Encarnacion off the plate but replays showed he never tagged him. Laz Diaz called him out to end the inning and Dusty Baker argued intensely to no avail.

The Reds second run came in the ninth inning off of Jeff Samardzija. Paul Janish led off with a single to left on a 3-2 pitch, the Reds’ third hit of the game. Willy Taveras then blooped a single into center on Samardzija’s first offering. With the Cubs up 5-1, Joey Votto stepped in and grounded out to first on a 0-1 pitch … both runners advanced on the play.

Brandon Phillips grounded out to short, Janish scored and with the Cubs up 5-2, Piniella went to his pen for Kevin Gregg.

For the second day in a row Kevin Gregg recorded one out. Gregg struck out Edwin Encarnacion swinging on a ball in the dirt … the 27th out and his 21st save of the year.

With the Cubs down 1-0 in the second, Milton Bradley walked to start the inning. Alfonso Soriano followed with single to right, an excellent at bat by Soriano. Mike Fontenot struck out swinging then Koyie Hill walked to load the bases.

Micah Owings struck out Rich Harden for the second out but could not find the strike zone against Kosuke Fukudome. Owings walked Fukudome on five pitches, Bradley scored and tied the game at one.

Ryan Theriot fouled out to Joey Votto on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Aramis Ramirez and Jake Fox flied out to the warning track to begin the third. Milton Bradley worked a two-out walk then scored the eventual game winner on a double to left by Alfonso Soriano. The wind kept the ball in the yard which allowed Bradley to score all the way from first. Bradley made an excellent slide to avoid the tag. Mike Fontenot popped out to end the inning.

Dusty Baker went to his pen in the fourth. Micah Owings left with tightness in his right shoulder and Baker’s pen shutdown the Cubs offense … until the seventh.

Ryan Theriot led off the seventh with a single to center off of Nick Masset. Aramis Ramirez followed with a double down the left field line on a 2-0 pitch. Jake Fox then blooped a single into right center, Theriot scored, 3-1 Cubs. Milton Bradley looked at strike three on a 3-2 pitch for the first out. Soriano then smashed a ball to third, Encarnacion made a good snag and started the 5-4-3 inning ending double play.

Reed Johnson pinch hit for Angel Guzman and started the bottom of the eighth with a single to center. Koyie Hill (2-for-3 with a double, a triple, a walk and a run scored) hit a triple to right center. Chris Dickerson attempted a diving catch, the ball went off his glove and ended up rolling to the wall. Johnson scored easily, 4-1 Cubs.

Chris Dickerson left the game with an apparent injury.

Andres Blanco popped out to right but Kosuke Fukudome delivered a single into right center that plated Hill with the Cubs fifth run of the game. Ryan Theriot flied out to left for the second out. Aramis Ramirez (2-for-4 with a walk) followed with a single to right off of Francisco Cordero. Jake Fox grounded out to short to end the inning.

The Cubs improved to 6-3 on the year against the Reds … and 8-2 since the break with Sunday’s victory.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face Wandy Rodriguez on Monday night in the first of four against the Astros.

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne