Game One Hundred Twenty-Two – Cubs 4 Astros 3
WP – Rodrigo Lopez (4-3) LP – Henry Sosa (0-2) Save – Kerry Wood (1)
The Cubs won for the third time in as many games behind a serviceable start from Rodrigo Lopez and two, two-run doubles … one by Carlos Pena in the first and the other by Geovany Soto with two outs in sixth.
Carlos Pena (2-for-5 with a double and two RBI) drove in the winning run for the third game in a row. Pena just missed a three-run shot in the first inning against Henry Sosa and had to settle for a two-run double.
After going hitless in Atlanta, Geovany Soto (3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI) put together a three-hit night that included a pair of doubles … the first was the 100th two-bagger of his career. Soto delivered a two-out, two-run double in the sixth that ended up being the difference in the game.
Aramis Ramirez was 3-for-4 with a run scored and Marlon Byrd finished 1-for-3 with a run scored and two walks.
Rodrigo Lopez kept his team in the game but was left in one batter too long. Lopez gave up three runs, two earned, on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. Lopez threw 86 pitches, 57 for strikes.
The Cubs defense was both the difference and costly for Rodrigo Lopez. Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin were charged with two errors that lead to two runs but plays by Castro, Darwin Barney and Reed Johnson helped keep the Astros off the board while Lopez was on the mound.
The Cubs’ pen was lights out in relief of Lopez. James Russell, Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood did not allow a hit over the last 3 2/3 innings and issued only one walk with three strikeouts.
Kerry Wood struck out two more batters in the ninth and earned his first save of the season … and in more than a year (June 29, 2010). Wood has struck out 10 of the last 11 batters he’s faced.
The Cubs won a game for the second day in a row in which they committed multiple errors and struck out too many times. After being charged with four errors and striking out 18 times on Sunday, Q’s squad was charged with two more miscues and struck out 10 times on Monday night.
With Monday’s victory, the Cubs have won 12 of 15 and improved to 54-68, 14 games below .500 … The Cubs jumped on the rookie Henry Sosa in the first inning. Starlin Castro struck out swinging (fifth strikeout in two games) to begin the game. Darwin Barney showed rare patience and worked a walk. Aramis Ramirez lined the first he saw into left center. Barney advanced to third on a long single by Ramirez.
With runners on first and third with one out, Carlos Pena launched a 2-1 pitch to center. In any other park, the ball would have been long gone but at Minute Maid it was a long double. Jason Bourgeois got turned all around and tried to make a diving catch on top of Tal’s Hill but missed. Barney and Ramirez scored … 2-0 Cubs.
Marlon Byrd and Reed Johnson struck out swinging to end the first … Henry Sosa actually struck out the side.
Rodrigo Lopez was not fooling anyone in the first inning. Starlin Castro made two excellent plays on hard-hit balls in the hole to nail both Bourgeois and Jose Altuve to start the inning. J.D. Martinez reached on a rocket back up the middle and into center. Lopez began struggling with his command and issued a two-out walk to Carlos Lee. Matt Downs ran the count full before hitting a chopper to Castro to end the inning.
It took Lopez 24 pitches (13 for strikes) to record three outs in the first.
The Cubs did nothing against Henry Sosa in the second … and went down in order rather quickly.
Lopez sat down the Astros in order on nine pitches, seven for strikes, in the bottom of the second.
Henry Sosa retired the top of the Cubs lineup in order in the top of the third … and the Astros did nothing against Lopez in the bottom of the third. After three complete, 2-0 Cubs.
Marlon Byrd walked on four pitches with one out in the fourth. Johnson struck out swinging and Tyler Colvin chopped out to third to end the inning.
The Astros finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth … but it should have been more than just one run. J.D. Martinez ripped Lopez’s first pitch of the inning into left center for a single. Carlos Lee flied out to right center for the first out.
Matt Downs tried to check his swing and blooped a double down the right field line. Colvin fielded the ball cleanly and came up throwing towards second. Colvin’s throw was low and got away from Castro as Downs slid into second. Martinez took off for the plate after the ball got away and scored. Brian Bogusevic hit a 1-0 pitch into center. Byrd caught the ball and fired to third. Downs tagged and was thrown out at third to end the inning.
Geovany Soto led off the fifth with his first hit of the trip … a double into left center, the 100th two-bagger of his career. Lopez tried to bunt him to third but Carlos Lee played the bunt perfectly and threw out Soto at third. It was both a bad bunt and an even worse job of running the bases. Starlin Castro singled to left on a 2-2 pitch but Darwin Barney struck out swinging for the second out … Barney’s strikeout was the 24th strikeout by the Cubs in 14 innings. Ramirez popped up the first pitch to Quintero in foul ground to end the inning.
Clint Barmes led off the fifth with a double to left center … the Astros’ third hit in five batters and second double. Lopez struck out Humberto Quintero swinging for the first out.
Reed Johnson made a tremendous diving catch on a ball hit down the left field line off the bat of Henry Sosa. Johnson took away Sosa’s first big league hit and kept Houston from tying the game. Bourgeois flied out to left center to end the inning.
The Cubs tacked on in the sixth with their second two-run double of the night.
Carlos Pena led off the inning by grounding out to Altuve in the shift. Marlon Byrd ripped a 0-1 pitch from Sosa into center. Reed Johnson stepped to the plate and put together a professional at bat. Byrd took off for second on a 1-2 pitch from Sosa, Johnson dropped a single into shallow right center on the seventh pitch of the at bat. Byrd ended up at third with one out.
Tyler Colvin popped out to shallow center on a 1-1 pitch … Byrd could not tag.
Geovany Soto showed patience and worked the count to 3-1 before ripping a double down the third baseline and into the left field corner. Byrd and Johnson scored … 4-1 Cubs. Lopez hit a chopper over the mound that Barmes fielded and threw to first to end the inning.
Jose Altuve reached on error by Starlin Castro to start the sixth. Lopez walked J.D. Martinez to put two on with no outs for Carlos Lee. Lopez jammed Lee and got him to pop out to Darwin Barney … but Matt Downs lined a 1-2 pitch into left center. Altuve and Martinez scored and just like that the Cubs’ lead was down to one run.
Mike Quade finally took out Lopez and brought in James Russell to face the lefty Brian Bogusevic. Brad Mills countered with Jason Michaels and Russell struck him out swinging for the second out in the sixth. Russell fell behind Barmes 3-1 before the Astros’ shortstop flied out to left center to end the inning.
David Carpenter took over for the Astros in the seventh … and struck out both Castro (swinging) and Barney (looking) to begin the inning. Aramis Ramirez singled to center and chased Carpenter from the game. Mills went to his pen for the lefty, Sergio Escalona.
Carlos Pena reached on an infield single to Altuve in the shift … and Mills went back to his pen for Fernando Rodriguez. Marlon Byrd worked a walk to load the bases with two outs. Reed Johnson took ball one over his head but was jammed on the next pitch and popped out to Lee at first to end the inning.
Jeff Samardzija issued a four-pitch walk with one out to pinch-hitter Angel Sanchez … but Jason Bourgeois lined out to short and Altuve grounded out weakly to second to end the inning.
After Tyler Colvin tapped back to the mound to start the eighth, Geovany Soto reached on an infield single to the hole at short. Blake DeWitt hit for Samardzija and was walked on four pitches. Castro hit into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.
Sean Marshall sat down the Astros in order in the eighth on 14 pitches, 11 for strikes.
Mark Melancon, the Astros closer, started the ninth in a one-run game. After Darwin Barney grounded out to first to start the inning, Ramirez recorded his third hit of the night … a hard hit single to center. Humberto Quintero let one get by him on the first pitch to Pena. The passed ball allowed Ramirez to take second base … but Pena and Byrd struck out to end the inning.
With Carlos Marmol getting a night off, Kerry Wood took the hill in the ninth in search of his first save in over a year (June 29, 2010). Woody struck out two of the three batters he faced on 10 pitches, eight for strikes, to end the game. Kerry Wood has struck out 10 of the last 11 batters he’s faced.
Three wins in a row and 12 of 15 …
Ryan Dempster will face Brett Myers in the second game of the series on Tuesday night.