What a Long Strange Trip … Q’s Cubs Win Fifth Straight – Cubs 7 Pirates 6

Game One Hundred Twelve – Cubs 7 Pirates 6
WP – Jeff Samardzija (6-4) LP – Daniel McCutchen (3-3) Save – Carlos Marmol (23)

wflag.jpgThe Chicago Cubs posted their fifth straight win on Thursday night and finished the 10-game road trip with a 5-5 record … and completed the first four-game sweep in Pittsburgh since 1959 (June 5 – June 7) at Forbes Field.

The Cubs took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth after three more home runs. The Cubs hit 10 homers over the last three games of the series and three of their first four hits left the park on Thursday night … and not one of them was a cheap shot.

Geovany Soto (1-for-4 with a home run) led off the third with his 11th longball of the year. Carlos Pena (1-for-3 with a home run, a walk and two RBI) blasted his team-leading 21st in the fourth that gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead. After Marlon Byrd collected the 1000th hit of his big league career, Blake DeWitt hit a deep fly to the back of the bleachers in right to give the Cubs a 4-0 advantage.

Rodrigo Lopez imploded in the bottom of the fourth … and should have not been allowed to finish the inning. The Pirates rallied with six runs off Lopez in the fourth with the biggest hit coming off the bat of James McDonald. The Pirates pitcher hit a bases clearing double that gave the Bucs a 5-4 lead. Andrew McCutchen doubled in McDonald for the sixth run of the inning. And the game appeared over …

The Pirates pounded Lopez to the tune of six runs on seven hits with two walks and no strikeouts in four innings … Lopez has allowed 12 runs on 15 hits over his last two starts (8 1/3 innings).

Ramon Ortiz and Jeff Samardzija kept the Pirates from tacking on and the Cubs mounded a comeback in the eighth.

Reed Johnson (2-for-2 with a run scored) started the three-run rally in the eighth with a bloop single to center. After a Starlin Castro single and Darwin Barney was hit by pitch to load the bases, Aramis Ramirez singled in Johnson with the Cubs’ fifth run.

Carlos Pena worked a bases loaded walk to tie the game and Marlon Byrd (1-for-3 with a run scored, a sac fly and a RBI) hit a sac fly to left center that allowed Castro to tag and score the go ahead run.

James Russell and Kerry Wood worked around a one-out single by Ryan Doumit in the eighth and Carlos Marmol picked up his third save of the series with a perfect ninth.

With Thursday’s win, the Cubs are 10-10 in the last 20 games since the break … and Q’s squad improved to 47-65 on the season, 18 games under .500.

Rodrigo Lopez and James McDonald retired the first six batters they faced on Thursday night … and that all changed in the third.

Geovany Soto led off the third with a line drive homer to left. Soto’s 11th of the season gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead … Soto’s longball was the Cubs first hit of the game.

Tyler Colvin (fly out to shallow center), Lopez (tap back to the mound) and Castro (ground out to short) went down quickly to end the top of the third.

Xavier Paul led off the bottom of the third with a bloop single to center … the Bucs first hit of the game. With Brandon Wood at the plate, Paul took off for second. Soto made a strong throw but Barney made an even better pick to nail Paul at second. Lopez ended up walking Wood.

After James McDonald sacrificed Wood to second, McCutchen grounded out to third to end the inning.

Rodrigo Lopez threw 34 pitches, 20 for strikes, in the first three innings.

Darwin Barney and Aramis Ramirez went down quickly to start the top of the fourth. Carlos Pena launched McDonald’s first pitch over the wall in straight away center … the ball ended up under the ‘A’ in ‘Pirates’ in the batter’s eye. Pena’s team leading 21st homer of the season gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

Marlon Byrd followed Pena with a single to left … the 1000th hit of his big league career.

Blake DeWitt then hit his third homer of the season to the back of the bleachers in right … and the Cubs took a 4-0 lead. Soto struck out swinging to end the inning.

Rodrigo Lopez started the bottom of the fourth with a 4-0 lead … and the lead didn’t make it through the inning.

Garrett Jones led off the fourth with a double to right center. Neil Walker grounded out to second, Jones advanced to third and scored on Ryan Ludwick’s first hit in a Pirates’ uniform. Ludwick singled to center and the Pirates were on the board.

Pedro Alvarez hit Lopez’s first pitch into right center for a single. With runners on first and second with one out, Ryan Doumit ripped a single into right. Ludwick held at third with the Pirates down by three.

Xavier Paul hit a weak chopper to the hole on the left side. Ramirez cut the ball off and threw to second to force Doumit for the second out of the inning. Ludwick scored … 4-2 Cubs. Lopez seemed to pitch around Brandon Wood and walked him to load the bases.

James McDonald stepped in hitting .079 for the season (3-for-38) … and he ripped a 2-1 pitch out into left center. Three runs scored, the first three RBI of McDonald’s career, and just like that the Pirates took a 5-4 lead.

Andrew McCutchen gave the Bucs a little breathing room with a double to right center. McDonald scored … 6-4 Pirates.

Garrett Jones, who started the fourth with a double, flied out to Tyler Colvin, with his back against the wall, to end the inning.

Rodrigo Lopez threw 37 pitches, 23 for strikes, in what should have been his last inning in a Cubs’ uniform.

The Pirates took a 6-4 lead into the fifth and the Cubs started swinging at everything close to the plate. Q’s squad went down in order in the fifth.

Ramon Ortiz faced the minimum in the bottom of the fifth … and McDonald faced one over the minimum in the sixth after Ramirez reached on an error by Pedro Alvarez. Ortiz allowed only an infield single to Brandon Wood in the sixth (hole at short).

James McDonald retired DeWitt (fly out to left center), Soto (tap back to the mound) and Colvin (fly out to right) quickly in the seventh.

Jeff Samardzija gave up a one-out double to Garrett Jones in the seventh but struck out Neil Walker and retired Ludwick on a fly out to right to end the inning.

Daniel McCutchen took over for James McDonald in the eighth.

Reed Johnson entered the game in a double switch in the top of the inning. Johnson hit in the pitcher’s spot and led off the inning with the Cubs’ fifth hit of the game … a bloop single to right center. Starlin Castro followed with a single to center, his 10th hit of the series. McCutchen then hit Barney on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases with no outs.

Clint Hurdle went to his pen and brought in Jason Grilli to face Aramis Ramirez.

Ramirez blooped a single into center. Andrew McCutchen tried to make a sliding catch but trapped the ball. Johnson scored … 6-5 Pirates. Hurdle made the slow walk again and brought in lefty Joe Beimel to face Carlos Pena.

Carlos Pena had faced Beimel only once in a big league game prior to Thursday night and the result was a walk. Pena’s patience paid off on Thursday against Beimel and he worked a walk to force in Castro with the tying run.

Clint Hurdle made his fourth pitching change of the inning and brought in Jose Veras to face Marlon Byrd with the bases loaded and no outs.

Byrd did his job and lifted a 1-2 pitch into left center. Barney tagged and scored7-6 Cubs. Ramirez tagged from second and advanced to third.

With runners on first and third with one out, Blake DeWitt popped out to second on the first pitch. Veras struck out Soto swinging to end the inning.

James Russell started the eighth and retired Pedro Alvarez on a ground out to short. Ryan Doumit singled to left on a 2-2 pitch. Hurdle sent Matt Diaz in to hit for Xavier Paul and Quade went to his pen for Kerry Wood … and brought in Alfonso Soriano to play left.

Wood struck out Diaz looking for the second out. Brandon Wood stepped in and launched a 0-2 pitch to deep left center … but Byrd was there to end the inning.

Joel Hanrahan struck out Alfonso Soriano to start the ninth. Reed Johnson reached on a single to center on a ball that hit off the second base bag. Starlin Castro hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

The Cubs took a 7-6 lead into the ninth.

Steve Pearce hit for Hanrahan and mashed a 1-2 pitch into deep left center. Byrd caught a ball that in just about any other park would have been a home run. Andrew McCutchen struck out swinging and Jones flied out to deep center to end the game.

Five wins in a row after one of their worst games of the season …

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

The Cubs open a three game series Friday afternoon against the Reds at Wrigley … Ryan Dempster versus Mike Leake in game one.

Quote of the Day

"When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all." – Theodore Roosevelt