Close But No Sweep for Q’s Squad – Cubs 4 Padres 5

Game Eighteen – Cubs 4 Padres 5
WP – Aaron Harang (4-0) LP – James Russell (1-2) Save – Heath Bell (5)

After winning game one Wednesday in walk-off fashion, the Cubs had a chance to sweep the Padres in the day-night doubleheader and take all three games of the series. A win would have moved the Cubs two full games above .500 … but thoughts of spending Thursday’s off day above the mediocre mark was quickly erased in the second inning of game two.

Ryan Ludwick (3-for-4 with a home run, a double, two runs scored and two RBI) had a huge game and the former Cardinal’s two-run homer in the second gave the Padres the lead they would not surrender. Ludwick and the Padres scored more runs in the first three innings Wednesday night that they had in the first two games combined. The Padres hit three home runs off James Russell before the southpaw left after four-plus innings with his team down 4-0.

The Padres managed only seven hits off James Russell but five went for extra bases including three home runs. Russell proved once again that he is a situational reliever … and Mike Quade acknowledged as much in his post-game press conference.

To the Cubs credit they never quit Wednesday night and kept chipping away at the Padres lead. The Cubs were down 4-0 as late as the fifth and were looking up at a 5-2 deficit in the bottom of the eighth.

Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4 with a double, a home run, two runs scored and two RBI) and Reed Johnson (3-for-4 with a double and a RBI) led the offense Wednesday night. Soriano doubled and scored the Cubs first run on Johnson’s RBI double in the fifth. Johnson tried to stretch the double into a triple and was thrown out at third for the second out of the inning. After Johnson’s baserunning gaffe, the Cubs strung together three more hits and scored another run. Johnson’s aggressiveness likely cost the Cubs a run in a one-run loss.

Alfonso Soriano hit his sixth longball of the season in the eighth, a two-run shot that cut the Padres led to 5-4.

The Cubs put the tying run on with two outs in the ninth but Darwin Barney (2-for-5 with a RBI) looked at strike three on a 3-2 offering from Heath Bell to end the game.

Q’s squad ended up winning the series by taking two of three from the Padres. Wednesday night’s loss dropped the Cubs back to .500 at 9-9 on the season … the Cubs are now 1-5 in the final game of the first six series of the season.

With not being able to win the second game of the doubleheader, it has been nearly eight years since the Cubs swept a doubleheader at Wrigley Field. The last time a Cubs team accomplished that feat was September 27, 2003 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

James Russell faced the minimum in the first inning after Chase Headley hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Russell threw only 12 pitches, eight for strikes. But that all changed in the second …

Russell retired Jorge Cantu on a pop out to Barney in shallow center but Cameron Maybin ripped a 0-1 pitch into center for a single. Maybin stole second on Russell’s first pitch to Ryan Ludwick.

Ryan Ludwick then gave the Padres a 2-0 lead with a long homer over the wall in left that ended up on Waveland.

Russell retired Rob Johnson on a pop out to Barney in shallow right and Alberto Gonzalez popped out to Castro in shallow left to end the inning.

Aaron Harang retired the Cubs in order in the second, faced the minimum in the third and the Padres were able to tack on in the top of the fourth.

Cameron Maybin launched a 2-1 pitch from Russell over the wall in center. Maybin’s one out shot gave the Padres a 3-0 lead. Russell got out of the fourth without allowing another run … Ryan Ludwick doubled off the wall in left following Maybin’s blast but was stranded after Johnson grounded out to short, Gonzalez was intentionally walked and Aaron Harang flied out to deep left center to end the inning.

After four Russell had thrown 70 pitches … and Quade sent him back out to start the fifth.

James Russell left after facing one batter in the fifth and giving up his third longball of the game. Chris Denorfia hit a 1-2 pitch into the basket in left and gave the Padres a commanding 4-0 lead.

Jeff Stevens took over and Quade made a double-switch sending Jeff Baker in for Carlos Pena. Stevens retired Bartlett on a pop out to right but hit Chase Headley. Headley broke for second on the first pitch to Jorge Cantu. Geovany Soto threw a strike and nailed Headley for the second out. Cantu grounded out to third to end the inning.

The Cubs got on the board in the bottom of the fifth … and it should have been more.

Alfonso Soriano led off the inning with a double to center. Cameron Maybin tried to make an over the shoulder catch, the ball hit off his glove and Soriano settled for a double. Reed Johnson stepped in with one out and hit a rocket down the left field line. Soriano scored and Johnson rounded second and tried to reach third with one out.

Jason Bartlett made a perfect relay throw to third and Johnson was tagged out.

Jeff Baker followed with a single to center and Kosuke Fukudome singled to right. Johnson’s decision likely cost the Cubs a run.

Darwin Barney came through with a two-out single to center. Baker scored … 4-2 Padres. Starlin Castro ripped Aaron Harang’s first pitch into right center. Maybin made a diving catch to end the inning.

The momentum shifted right back to the Padres in the top of the sixth. Ryan Ludwick ripped a double into right center on a 0-2 offering from Jeff Stevens. Rob Johnson blooped a single into right. Ludwick held at third but scored on a sac fly to right center off the bat of Alberto Gonzalez.

With the Padres back up by three, Bud Black let Harang hit and he popped out to second to end the inning.

The Cubs put the leadoff hitter on in the sixth and seventh but could not string together any hits until the eighth.

Blake DeWitt hit for Marcos Mateo with two outs in the eighth and reached on an infield single to third. Chad Qualls quickly got ahead of Alfonso Soriano 0-2. Soriano lifted Qualls’ next pitch into the bleachers in left center and cut the Padres’ lead to 5-4.

Kosuke Fukudome kept the game going against Heath Bell in the ninth. Fukudome worked the count to 3-2 before dropping a single into right center. Darwin Barney put together a nice at bat. Barney worked the count to 3-2 before looking a nasty curve ball to end the game.

After winning game one and with a long day at the park, it would have been easy for the Cubs to mail-in the second game, especially with being down 4-0 early. Q’s squad kept playing and nearly pulled out a sweep. It was good to see a Cubs team play to the end, something they have not done in a couple of seasons.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

The Cubs have Thursday off and continue the nine-game homestand with the first of three against the Dodgers Friday afternoon. Casey Coleman against Chad Billingsley in game one.

Quote of the Day

"There are places I remember. All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments ... " John Lennon/Paul McCartney
  • Ripsnorter1

    Historically, Soriano’s best month of the baseball year has been May. Could it be that Soriano will put together a good year–a final career year a la Paul Konerko did in 2010–in 2011?

    • Tony

      It is possible. Soriano has had Rudy J again for over a year now, and it is somebody he respects and will listen to, eventually, it should sink in. He is still swinging at sliders way, way off the plate, but watching him go to the opposite field, reminds of his first few years with the Cubs. Strike One is his worst enemy, as when he gets behind, the only way he gets a hit, is usually when a pitcher throws him a fastball over the plate, or hangs a curve. Of course, why would any pitcher throw him a fastball over the plate, when he is ahead in the count.

      I still don’t see him continuing this pace (obviously) and would be amazed if he plays 150+ games. One thing for sure, if he can have a good, full season, he will be tradeable to an AL team (to DH) with only 3 years on his contract. It will still take a lot of cash (that is already spent!) to go with him, but becomes doable after this season.

      • LD2011

        Yes, that would be great to trade Soriano to an AL team, BUT, and that is a big “BUT”.. Soriano has a full no trade clause, so he would have to agree to be traded to the AL. I think he would like to be a DH though so maybe he would agree????

        • Tony

          The dreaded no-trade clause. Soriano has agents, who I am sure are up to date on reality. They would advise him that a move to AL, would be a great way to extend his career.

      • paulcatanese

        Tony,I think Soriono has made tremdous strides so far this year and I do agree that Rudy J has had a great deal to do with it. It just may be that what Rudy preaches will fall exactly what Soriono needs. I hope so. In all fairness Tony,I believe two of his home runs have been with a 0-2 count on him, and one that I did see was on a hanging slider. Right now ,today he is swinging the best in a couple of years and hope as you continues his streak.and he(as you say) is going to the oppisite field,one for a home run I think.Any way glad to see one vet having a decent start.

        • Tony

          Soriano has looked much better at the plate. With that said, he has still had some really ugly AB’s. I hope he contiues hitting like he is right now, it almost makes up for his D.

    • paulcatanese

      Sincerely hope so Rip, or I may be forced to dust off my spikes.

  • Tony

    What did we learn this week in the cold weather?

    Our hitters don’t hit in the cold as well. But also, that other teams hitters (on one of the worst offenses in baseball) hitting in the cold, can make our pitchers, get out of their funk, and look good, except Russell…and he got 2 starts…

  • Capngeo2002

    …at least .500 could win the division and be swept in the first round of the playoffs…

  • paulcatanese

    Good post Neil, and I certainly appreciate your’e accurate and un-biased evaluation of the game. You do that every day,and I for one like it. Now have MLB tv to watch as many games as I can and between that and the report you provide really gives me an insight I have never had before,thank you for the site.

    • Tony

      Paul – Isn’t great! You can always watch a game or rewatch a game or an inning.