Game Twelve – Cubs 9 Astros 5
WP – Carlos Zambrano (2-0) LP – Wandy Rodriguez (0-2) Save – None
Wednesday was a wild night in Houston for the Chicago Cubs. Q’s squad jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning after a two-out, two-run double by Jeff Baker and a two-out, three-run homer off the bat of Alfonso Soriano. Carlos Zambrano was on cruise control and even hit his first home run of the year in the top of the sixth … the 22nd longball of Zambrano’s career.
The Cubs took what appeared to be a commanding 6-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth. But after a walk, a bad deflection, a misplayed ball and a blast, the Cubs lead was cut to 6-5 and Carlos Zambrano was out of the game.
The Cubs pen held the precarious one-run lead into the ninth. Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney went to work against Wilton Lopez and added a huge insurance run. Castro singled, stole second and scored when Barney lined a double into left center. After a throwing error by Wilton Lopez allowed Barney to score and Byrd to take third, Aramis Ramirez drove in the Cubs ninth run with a single to center.
The Cubs offense scored a season-high nine runs on a season-high 14 hits. Wednesday marked the first time in 2011 the Cubs posted a win in a game decided by more than three runs.
Carlos Zambrano was lights out for the first five innings. Z threw strikes and gave up only two hits on 66 pitches before the game changed in the bottom of the sixth. Houston scored all five runs off Z in the sixth. Zambrano threw 33 pitches in 2/3 of an inning and left the game with a slim one run lead.
Marcos Mateo, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol preserved Zambrano’s second victory of the season … and his 10th straight win.
Starlin Castro was impressive once again at the plate and in the field. Castro was 3-for-5 with a run scored and a stolen base Wednesday night. In the field, Castro turned in three tremendous defensive plays at short … and was in the middle of a perfect relay that kept the Astros from scoring in the second.
Darwin Barney continues to make it hard for Mike Quade not to put him into the starting lineup. Barney was solid in the field, outside of a communication problem with Tyler Colvin in the sixth, and added a 2-for-4 night at the plate that included a RBI double, a run scored and a walk.
Aramis Ramirez (3-for-5 with a run scored and a RBI), Jeff Baker (2-for-5 with a double, two RBI and a run scored) and Geovany Soto (2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored) did their jobs in the middle of the lineup.
Alfonso Soriano hit his fourth longball of the season and first with runners on base in the first. Soriano drove in three of the Cubs nine runs with one big swing.
Wednesday marked the first time since 2007 a Cubs team handed Wandy Rodriguez a loss. With Wednesday’s victory, the Cubs improved to 6-6 on the season … and in the process notched their first road series win of the year. The Cubs jumped on Wandy Rodriguez in the first inning … with a little help from the Astros’ defense. Starlin Castro extended his hitting streak to six games with a single to center. Darwin Barney flied out to left and Marlon Byrd hit into what appeared to be an inning ending double play. Byrd hit the ball back to Rodriguez who was slow to throw to second. Castro was forced at second but Byrd hustled down the line and beat the throw. Aramis Ramirez followed with a single to center.
With runners on first and second with two outs, Jeff Baker ripped a 1-1 offering into right. Byrd scored easily and Ramirez lumbered around third and scored without a throw. The Cubs scored a pair of runs with well-timed two-out hit by Baker.
Geovany Soto followed Baker with a four-pitch walk.
Alfonso Soriano quickly fell behind 0-2 before launching his fourth home run of the season. Soriano’s first longball of the year with runners on base was a no doubter.
Tyler Colvin struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Cubs put a rare five-spot on the board against Wandy Rodriguez in the first inning … all with two outs.
Carlos Zambrano retired Houston in order in the first inning.
After the Cubs went quietly in the second, Zambrano retired Carlos Lee on a ground out to short before issuing his first walk of the game to Brett Wallace. Bill Hall flied out to deep right for the second out.
Matt Downs notched the Astros first hit, a double down the left field line. Alfonso Soriano made his way to the ball, threw a strike to Starlin Castro who completed the perfect relay to Geovany Soto. Wallace was out by a mile to end the inning.
The Cubs had a chance to knock Wandy Rodriguez out of the game in the third. Aramis Ramirez and Jeff Baker led off with back-to-back singles. Geovany Soto lined a single into center to load the bases … with no outs.
Brad Mills brought his infield in and Alfonso Soriano responded with a sharp grounder to third on a 0-1 pitch. Matt Downs threw to the plate to force Ramirez and J.R. Towles made a quick turn to first to double up Soriano (5-2-3). Tyler Colvin worked the count to 3-2 before being called out on a check swing to end the inning.
Carlos Zambrano made it 6-0 in the top of the sixth with a towering home run to left center. The 22nd longball of Z’s career left the juice box in a hurry.
Michael Bourn led off a long bottom of the sixth with a four-pitch walk. Angel Sanchez then reached on a swinging bunt up the third baseline. Ramirez let the ball roll and it appeared to be going foul but it hit a clump of dirt and rolled well inside the line.
Hunter Pence grounded out to second on the first pitch. Bourn and Sanchez advanced to second and third on the play. Carlos Lee drove in Houston’s first run of the game with a single to left. Sanchez held at third with one out.
Brett Wallace put together a long at bat, worked the count to 3-2 and singled to left center on the tenth pitch of the at bat. Sanchez scored easily and Lee took third on the play.
Bill Hall then hit a high fly ball into shallow right. Barney and Colvin had communication problems and the ball fell in between the two. Barney threw to second to force Wallace … and Wallace’s baserunning blunder kept the game from being tied. Carlos Lee scored on what was ruled a fielder’s choice.
Z appeared to lose his composure at that point and fell behind Matt Downs 3-2. Downs lifted Z’s next pitch over the wall in left center … and just like that the Cubs were in the middle of another close game at 6-5.
Carlos Zambrano walked J.R. Towles to end his night.
Z handed the ball to Quade as he walked off the mound. Zambrano threw 33 pitches in the sixth and recorded two outs.
Marcos Mateo threw one pitch to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels … and ended the sixth inning.
Sean Marshall did his job again in the seventh and Kerry Wood retired the Astros in order in the eighth.
The Cubs took the 6-5 lead into the ninth. Reed Johnson put together a very good at bat against Wilton Lopez. Johnson ended up popping out to short on the 11th pitch of the at bat.
Starlin Castro followed with his third hit of the game, a single to left, and broke a string of eight in a row retired by the Astros’ pen. With Barney at the plate, Castro stole second … the Cubs second stolen base of the season.
Darwin Barney worked the count to 2-2 before hitting a double into left center. Castro scored an all-important insurance run as Barney slid head first into second. Marlon Byrd’s hustle paid off again. Byrd’s nine-game hitting streak came to an end but the always-hustling Byrd forced Wilton Lopez to rush his throw on a weak grounder to the third base side of the mound. Lopez’s throw ended up down the right field line. Barney scored and Byrd motored all the way to third.
Aramis Ramirez singled to center and plated Byrd with the Cubs’ ninth and final run of the game.
Carlos Marmol walked Matt Downs to start the bottom of the ninth but retired the next three batters he faced to end the game (strikeout, pop out and fly out). Marmol threw 22 pitches, 12 for strikes, in a non-save situation.
The Cubs took care of business Wednesday night … and that is all that matters.
The Cubs will spend Thursday’s off day in Denver as the Rockies play a double header against the Mets at Citi Field. Matt Garza will face Jhoulys Chacin in the first of three in Colorado Friday night.