Z Win is Z Win – Cubs 4 Astros 2

Game One Hundred – Cubs 4 Astros 2
WP – Carlos Zambrano (7-5) LP – Bud Norris (5-7) Save – Sean Marshall (3)

wflag.jpgFor one of the few times this season, the Chicago Cubs played and won a ballgame without any drama.

Carlos Zambrano picked up his first victory in more than a month (June 20) after wiggling out of two bases loaded jams in the first three innings with minimal damage. The Astros loaded the bases in the second and third, both times with no outs, and scored a grand total of one run. Michael Bourn (3-for-5 with a RBI and two stolen bases) drove in Houston’s second run with a two-out RBI single in the fourth before Big Z and the pen shut the door.

Zambrano gave up two runs on nine hits with a walk, a hit by pitch and three strikeouts in six innings (101 pitches, 63 for strikes) and five Cubs’ relievers tossed three innings of shutout ball in relief of Z. Sean Marshall picked up his third save with a perfect ninth inning.

Mike Quade used Carlos Marmol in the eighth inning setup role Friday. Marmol was sharp and struck out both of the batters he faced (one looking, one swinging) on nine pitches, seven for strikes, to close out the eighth.

The Cubs scored all four runs in the fifth on two home runs, a stolen base and a sacrifice fly.

Aramis Ramirez (2-for-4 with a double, a home run and two RBI) had another big day at the plate and his 18th longball of the season ended up being the difference in the game. Ramirez tied Gabby Hartnett (231) for sixth on the Cubs All-Time home run list with Friday’s dinger.

Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4 with a double and a home run) broke up Norris’ shutout with his first home run since June 19 and fifth since May 5. Soriano’s 15th of the season cut the Astros’ lead in half at 2-1.

Darwin Barney (1-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base) scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Starlin Castro (0-for-3 with a RBI) after he swiped third base with one out in the fourth.

The Cubs also ended their error-streak on Friday. After going nine-straight in which they were charged with an error, Q’s squad was not charged with a miscue on Friday.

Friday marked the Cubs’ 40th victory of the season … still 20 below with a 40-60 record.

The Battle for Fifth Place in the NL Central‘ kicked off Friday afternoon at the old ballyard and Carlos Zambrano struggled with his command early on.

Both Zambrano and Bud Norris faced the minimum in the first inning after Jose Altuve and Starlin Castro hit into double plays.

The Astros got on the board in the second … but it could and should have been a lot worse for Zambrano. Z walked Carlos Lee to start the second then gave up a bloop single to Brett Wallace. Wallace broke his bat and blooped a single into right.

Z fell behind Chris Johnson 2-0 before the Astros’ third baseman ripped a single into center. With the bases loaded and no outs, Z fell behind Clint Barmes 3-0. After getting one over, Barmes hit a grounder to Castro. Castro stepped on second, flipped to first and the 6-3 double play got Z out of a big jam. Lee scored on the play … 1-0 Astros.

Humberto Quintero grounded out to second to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing against Bud Norris in the bottom of the second.

Bud Norris led off the third with a single to center. Michael Bourn singled to right … the fifth hit in 10 batters surrendered by Carlos Zambrano. Z then hit Altuve on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases with no outs.

Hunter Pence lined a 3-0 pitch into left. Soriano snagged the ball but Norris did not tag and score on the play. With the bases loaded and one out, Carlos Lee popped out to shallow left on the first pitch. Brett Wallace flied out to right center … and Zambrano escaped without allowing a run.

After three, Z’s pitch count stood at 52, 31 for strikes.

Alfonso Soriano led off the third with a double to left. After Barney blooped out to left center. Z hit a 3-2 pitch back to Norris. Soriano was caught in a run down and eventually tagged out (1-6-5) … and the baserunning gaffe cost the Cubs a run. Fukudome followed with a single to right. With runners on first and second with two down, Castro flied out to center to end the inning.

The Astros scored their second run in the fourth after back-to-back one out singles by Clint Barmes (3-1 pitch) and Humberto Quintero (0-2 pitch). Norris bunted both runners up ninety feet and Barmes scored on a single to right off the bat of Michael Bourn.

Bourn stole second and with runners on second and third with two down, Altuve lined out to Darwin Barney to end the inning.

The Cubs could not take advantage of another leadoff double in the fourth and Ramirez was stranded at second after Soto lined out to left to end the inning.

Z retired the Astros in order for the first (and only time) in the fifth.

Alfonso Soriano got just enough of a 1-0 pitch from Bud Norris to put the ball into the basket in left center. Soriano’s first homer in more than a month cut the Astros’ lead to 2-1.

Darwin Barney followed with a bloop single to right and advanced to second on an attempted sac bunt by Carlos Zambrano. Z reached and the Cubs appeared to be in business. Fukudome popped out to short on a 3-1 pitch for the first out. Barney took off for third on a 0-1 pitch to Castro. Castro ended up working the count to 3-2 before hitting a sac fly to left. Barney tagged and scored … game tied at two.

Z held at first and scored on Aramis Ramirez’s 18th homer of the season. Ramirez launched a 1-1 pitch into the bleachers in left center. Carlos Pena struck out to end the fifth.

Zambrano’s day came to an end after the sixth. Chris Johnson reached on a swinging bunt up the third baseline (Ramirez let the ball roll and it stayed fair) to start the sixth. Clint Barmes hit a grounder to first. Pena threw to second and forced Johnson for the first out. Z struck out Quintero and retired Bud Norris to end the inning.

The Cubs went down in order in the sixth.

Mike Quade started emptying his pen in the seventh. After James Russell started the seventh and gave up an infield single to Michael Bourn, Jeff Samardzija struck out Altuve looking and retired Pence on a pop out to third. With Bourn at second, Lee struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Bourn’s single was Houston’s last baserunner on Friday afternoon.

The Cubs pen struck out six of the 10 batters they faced over three innings.

It is always good to see the Cubs win a ballgame …

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Randy Wells will face Wandy Rodriguez in game two on Saturday afternoon.

Quote of the Day

"It's not that some people have willpower and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and others are not." - James Gordon
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  • studio179

    A win is a win, I guess. However, someone told me Quade was still going public today over the kids botching the pop up and needing communication. All true and well and good. Keep it in house. I suppose the vets coming through today makes his point stand. Ha! Not really though. He really has issues for discussing the kids mistakes to the media all the time and not saying ‘boo’ about the vets when they make mistakes. The kids are easy targets because it shows he lost the clubhouse a long time ago.

    • paulcatanese

      Agree, they are easy targets. But hey, I didn’t hear Quade object when the Phillies botched a pop-up and the Cubs scored two runs. But then the Cubs lost that one anyway. I think Quade as you have lost the team a while ago and was finalized with the Dempster argument.
      As for todays game, a win is a win as Neil said. But it was not a great one, as they played the Astros, and boy, they are really a bad team. Didnt realize that until today,if the Cubs cannot knock these guys off for a sweep this weekend they should just pack it in for the rest of the year and go to spring training early.

      • studio179

        You got that right! Even the Cubs should sweep these guys. The one and only team in MLB that the Cubs can look down on…but not by much. Houston should finish with the worst record this year and the Cubs second worst. But hey, the Cubs could keep trying to find ways to let Houston pass them up in the next couple months.

    • paulcatanese

      You know its a funny thing about Quade, he wasn’t saying all that much about Castro and Barney at the beginning of the year. They were the two that were holding the club up with their play and for the most part bringing the fans in.
      Then everything fell apart, the vets never did come thru and they end up 20 games under 500. Finally when Aram and Pena started hitting a little, and oh ,he praised Soriono too. So now after the horse has left the barn, he blames the kids, why not, they would not fight back. Now he continues making the same talk, better the kids and not a vet, who would tell him where to go.He is darn lucky that he had the two or he would be looking at rotten tomatos in the dugout.

  • BosephHeyden

    I’d say this is the best chance for the Cubs to win three in a row finally, but there’s no chance the Cubs win tomorrow with Randy Wells.

  • Anonymous47701

    If the Cubs sign Fielder, this should be the 2012 lineup

    B.Jackson-LF
    S.Castro-SS
    M.Kemp-CF
    P.Fielder-1B
    W.Castillo-C
    C.Davis-3B
    D.Barney-2B
    T.Colvin-RF

    bench

    R.Flaherty-Utility
    D.LeMahieu-INF
    S.Clevenger-C
    L.Montanez-OF
    M.Spencer-OF

    • paulcatanese

      We can all dream. Anything would be an improvement.

    • gocubs

      And how are you acquiring Matt Kemp?  There is no way that happens.  Flaherty and LeMahieu will be starters.  More likely Barney is the bench guy. 

      I have no clue why people are wanting Chris Davis?  The guy has a carreer OPS of .763.  OBP near or below .300.  Cant hit LHP to save his life and almost as bad vs RHP. Not a major league hitter.    

      • Calicub

        I’d say a deal involving blake dewitt…

    • Cha boy

      yeah in order to get Matt Kemp, the Cubs would probably have to give up more than they did for Garza …

    • diehardcubfan

      As gocub noted how are we acquiring Matt Kemp?  To get Kemp from the Dodgers the Cubs would have to give up a lot to include a couple of the guys they just promoted to AAA. 

      Chris Davis has been tearing it up at Round Rock at a 1.222 OPS even higher than Brian LaHair but I do not see him being an effective 3B.  He has 12 errors alone at 1B. 

      The question in regards to Davis is can he hit at the ML level?  That remains to be seen and with Mitch Moreland block his way I do not think he has a future in Texas.

      I personally think the Rangers will use Davis as a trading chip to get a relief pitcher they need, and that would likely be a trade to get Heath Bell from the Padres as the Padres really do not have much at 1B now since AGON left. 

      As for Fielder I would love to get him but I am starting to have second thoughts.  It might be better to save the money and invest in the farm system.  A lot of what happens with Fielder will be determined about what the Ricketts decide to do after the end of the season.

      I think in the end the lineup will look like this:

      B. Jackson – CF
      Castro – SS
      ARAM – 3B
      Pena – 1B
      Flaherty – RF
      Soriano – LF
      Soto – C
      DJ – 2B

      I think given the Cubs struggles with the starting rotation and the lack of ready AAA pitchers and the uncertainty of Cashner that the Cubs will focus their money on free agent starters as the number one priority.

      • paulcatanese

        I think thats a pretty fair evaluation of what the lineup will look like. Aram,Pena
        and Soriono will more than likely be back, but dont know about Soto, as the Cubs seem to be strong with catching from the system. Also think they will concentrate on Carpenter getting a good shot at the end of the year.

    • J Daniel

      Any line up with a right fielder who is batting 8th is doomed!  Need much better than Colvin.  I thought he was going to make it but he has to many holes in his swing.  The other teams caught up as often happens.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

      Good thinking out of the box on Kemp. I think it is more realistic to send a couple top ten prospects for Ethier as our RF. The Dodgers are not going to be in a position finacially to hold on to all 3 of Kershaw,Either and Kemp when they hit there final year of arbitration next year. All 3 should be making over 10 million at that point and just can not see LA keeping all of them around.

      • Anonymous47701

        If the Cubs can’t seem to get Kemp for any particular reason, do you think the Cubs should go after Rockies OF Dexter Fowler or Mets OF Angel Pagan?

  • twentytwo

    Did anyone see this? My apologies if someone posted earlier in the week…thought it was interesting…

    http://cubsbillygoatblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-did-last-years-fire-sale-turn-out.html

  • Ryan7_21_05

    i have to stick up for the Rickettes, I know everyone is saying , what why. Well here is why, the Rickettes are still dealing with all the crap the tribune did to the team. Meaning all the large contacts they let or told jimmy boy to do. I’m sure he wanted to come in and do everything he said he was going to. I still think he is going to. He helped the player development and scouting but knew he couldn’t do what he wanted to with the team until the crappy large contracts fell of the books. I do think things will turn around and We will be talking about a lot of better things on this my favorite site. Almost everyone has said the Rickettes have had enough time to fix things, but they really haven’t. Let’s judge him after this year. I think from next season on will be all the Rickettes doing and the blame can only be but on their laps.

    • cubtex

      Rome was not built in one night! If you were the owner of the team…wouldn’t you want to try and get “something” for all those millions instead of just eating contract after contract. I would do the same thing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

    I am totally stuck on which way to route for as a Cubs fan right now. I want the team to do good the rest of the way but I am afraid that if they do we will not get the changes that we need to take place. Part of me wants to see a sweep of Houston this weekend and the other part wants to loose 2 out of 3 so we have a better draft position next year.

    • diehardcubfan

      Richard, you are so right here.  As much as I hate to say it as you noted the only way any real change is to occur is if the Cubs continue on their downward spiral. 

      The Cubs finished August last year at 10-19 and I think based on the current state of this team that is what will likely happen again this year. 

      That being said I still think the Cubs biggest issue is leadership and that is where I think the biggest changes will occur at the end of the season.  That though remains in doubt given the lack of activity noted by the Ricketts thus far but they may be saving that for after the season. 

      I do not see any major changes on the roster.  Yes, I do think Jackson and Flaherty will be given every opportunity to win a starting job next spring but they have struggled since their promotion to Iowa so we will have to see.

      As insurance I think Colvin and Byrd will be kept in case Flaherty and Jackson are not ready.  That will likely be Colvin’s last real chance to play everyday.  Colvin has to improve on his pitch selection and OBP though to become a staying force.  

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

        You expect Colvin to change what got him to the big leagues? He got there as a pull everything hyper aggressive power hitter. He is now a hyper aggresive power hitter with giant hole in swing that gets fooled by anything with movement. Yeah I do not see any chance that will change.

        If you notice most of the kids that went to Triple A from Double are scuffing a little bit. Some are adjusting better than others but in general they are having a problem locating and driving breaking pitches. This has become a problem with the Cubs rookies over the last few years.

         I like Jackson but right now he looks lost at the plate (16 strike outs in 39 PA’s) . Colvin is hitting for power when he makes contact that is not a lot (over a 25% strike out rate (50 k’s) and only 5 walks in 199 PA’s).Ryan Flaherty is hitting .212 (9 SO’s in 36 PA’s). The reason I bring this up is it shows a serious problem with the kids being able to adjust to breaking balls.

        I know that it is early and to give the kids a chance to get use to the level of play but I am afraid that this is a problem that we see more and more of these guys make it through the system. They can not adjust and seem over matched a lot. At this point I would be more inclined to see what we could get as far as a proven commodity than pencil them in at the big league level next year. They just do not seem ready.

  • cmschube

    Hendry: We have a winning streak going now! Why would we think about trading away all our players!?! We’re still in this thing!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

      one in a row is now a winning streak?

      • cmschube

        Part of the sarcasm.. :)

      • diehardcubfan

        Given we have not even won 3 in a row, yes I would have to say that winning one game is now a winning streak.

  • paulcatanese

    Another “showcase” lineup trotted out by Quade today. I just hope that by the end of the trading deadline, things will change and they start playing and use what will be around next year. However if they sweep the Astro’s this weekend I also hope they do not think they have “turned it around” and continue with the present stratagy with the Vets.One never knows with this bunch with their distorted opinion of a “winner”. If they think that this will keep people coming to the games, they underestimate the knowledge of Cub fans.