Z Offense Leads the Way … Cubs Post Seventh Straight W – Cubs 11 Reds 4

Game One Hundred Fourteen – Cubs 11 Reds 4
WP – Carlos Zambrano (9-6) LP – Johnny Cueto (7-5) Save – None

wflag.jpgWho would have thought a week ago after the debacle in St. Louis that Q’s Cubs could rattle off seven wins in a row? The Cubs posted their seventh straight victory behind a so-so outing from Carlos Zambrano and a lot of offense in a short amount of time against Johnny Cueto and the Reds’ bullpen.

The Cubs scored all 11 runs in a four-inning span on Saturday afternoon. The offense pounded out 13 hits, six for extra bases, with not a single hit in the first two or last two innings of the game. The Cubs showed a lot of patience at the plate once again … and it led to several runs. The Cubs walked five times, including Carlos Pena (2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and three RBI) taking a bases loaded walk for the third time this week that forced in a run.

Starlin Castro (2-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and four RBI) had another huge game and extended his hitting streak to seven games with a 2-for-5 day at the plate. Castro drove in a season-high four runs and scored a run for the eighth game in a row. Starlin Castro recorded his 48th multi-hit game of the year and now leads the National League in hits (148).

Reed Johnson contributed once again. Johnson led off five different innings hitting out of the sixth spot in the lineup. Johnson scored three runs with a single and a double in five trips to the plate.

Carlos Pena drove in three runs on Saturday afternoon on a pair of doubles and a bases loaded walk.

Alfonso Soriano entered play Saturday with no walks in 20 games after the All-Star break. Soriano walked twice against Reds’ pitching and finished the game 2-for-3 with a double, a RBI, two runs scored and the two free passes.

The Cubs offense knocked Johnny Cueto out of the game in the fourth inning, the first time all season Cueto did not complete at least five innings. The Cubs became the first team to score more than three earned runs against Cueto.

Carlos Zambrano picked up his ninth win of the season on a day it did not appear he would complete four innings of work. Zambrano really struggled in the first three innings and put his team in an early hole while running up his pitch count (71 after three, 41 for strikes).

Zambrano was a different pitcher after he launched his second homer of the season to lead off the bottom of the third (23rd of his career, first of the year from the left side). Z’s blast was the first homer allowed by Johnny Cueto since June 28 and broke up both the no-hit bid and the shutout. Zambrano settled down and allowed three runs on six hits with four walks and six strikeouts in six innings. Z threw 117 pitches, 70 for strikes.

The Cubs won their seventh in a row (fifth in a row at Wrigley) and improved to 49-65 on the season, 16 below .500 …

Carlos Zambrano labored through a long 32-pitch first inning after striking out Drew Stubbs and retiring Edgar Renteria on a ground out to short.

Z appeared to strikeout Votto looking on a 2-2 pitch but did not get the call and ended up walking Joey Votto. The missed call appeared to get under Z’s skin and he allowed the missed call to affect his entire outing.

Zambrano jumped out ahead of Brandon Phillips 1-2 but lost him and issued his second walk of the game. Jay Bruce walked on four pitches to load the bases with two outs.

To Z’s credit he got out of the jam by striking out Miguel Cairo swinging to end the inning.

Johnny Cueto made quick order of Castro (struck out swinging) and Barney (ground out to short) but like Zambrano, lost his command after two quick outs. Cueto hit Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena. Marlon Byrd hit a weak grounder to short on a 2-0 pitch to end the inning.

Zambrano issued his fourth walk of the game to start the second. Like Votto and Phillips, Z jumped out ahead of Yonder Alonso 1-2 before eventually walking him. Ramon Hernandez flied out to center for the first out. Cueto sacrificed Alonso to second but Stubbs grounded out to short to end the inning.

After two, Z’s pitch count stood at 47 … 23 for strikes.

Alfonso Soriano reached on a one-out walk in the bottom of the second … first walk for Soriano since the All-Star break (21 games counting Saturday). Soto hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the second.

The Reds finally got on the board in the third. Edgar Renteria led off with a bloop single into right. Votto lined out to left center but Phillips reached on an infield single to the hole at short. Castro showed off his range by getting to the ball but could not throw out Renteria at second. Z reached back and struck out Jay Bruce looking on a 1-2 pitch.

Miguel Cairo blooped Z’s first pitch into right center. Renteria scored the first run of the game and Phillips took third on the play. Yonder Alonso put together another quality at bat and ripped a single to left on a 3-2 pitch. Phillips scored … 2-0 Reds. Hernandez flied out to center to end the inning.

Johnny Cueto had not allowed a hit over the first two innings … then Z stepped to the plate to start the third.

Carlos Zambrano launched a 1-1 pitch from Cueto into the bleachers in right center. Z’s second homer of the season, first from the left side, cut the Reds lead in half.

Aramis Ramirez reached on an infield single to the hole at short with two outs in the third. Carlos Pena’s patience paid off again and helped the Cubs tie the game. Pena worked the count to 3-2, which allowed Ramirez to get an early start from first. Pena ripped the 3-2 pitch into right center. The ball rolled all the way to the wall, Ramirez scored from first and tied the game at two.

Marlon Byrd grounded out to short to end the inning.

The Reds did nothing in the fourth … and it took Z just nine pitches to get three outs. After throwing 71 pitches (41 for strikes) in three innings, Z’s pitch count stood at 80 (49 for strikes) after four.

Saturday’s game changed on the first play of the bottom of the fourth.

Reed Johnson popped a 1-2 pitch into shallow center. Brandon Phillips raced out as Drew Stubbs was running in towards the infield. Phillips caught the ball but dropped it when Stubbs slid low and cut his legs out from under him. Johnson ended up at second with a double as Phillips lay on the outfield grass. After an extremely long delay (5-7 minutes), Phillips stayed in the game.

Johnny Cueto lost all rhythm after the long delay. Alfonso Soriano ripped a 1-1 pitch off the wall in left. Johnson scored the go ahead run on Soriano’s double. Soto followed with a single to left. Soriano held at third with no outs.

Carlos Zambrano stepped in with runners on first and third and struck out swinging for the first out.

Starlin Castro hit a grounder back up the middle that Phillips fielded as he stepped on the bag. Phillips forced Soto and Soriano scored the Cubs fourth run but he could not make the exchange and Castro reached on the fielder’s choice.

Darwin Barney singled to center to keep the inning going for Aramis Ramirez.

Cueto uncorked a wild pitch on a 2-1 offering to Ramirez. Castro and Barney advanced to second and third. Ramirez ended up walking to load the bases for Carlos Pena.

For the third time in seven days, Carlos Pena worked a bases loaded walk to force in Castro … and chase Johnny Cueto from the game.

Dusty Baker went to his pen and brought in Sam LeCure to face Marlon Byrd with the bases loaded. Byrd struck out swinging to end the inning … at the time Byrd was 0-for-3 with RISP and had left six runners on base.

Zambrano sat the Reds down in order in the top of the fifth on 14 pitches, eight for strikes. After five, Z’s pitch count stood at 94, 57 for strikes.

The Cubs went right back to work in the bottom of the fifth.

Reed Johnson led off with a single to right on a 1-2 pitch. Alfonso Soriano then blooped a 1-2 pitch into left. Yonder Alonso misplayed the ball and the Cubs took advantage of the Reds’ first error of the game. Johnson and Soriano advanced to second and third with no outs.

Geovany Soto walked to load the bases for Carlos Zambrano.

Z struck out swinging on a 0-2 pitch but Starlin Castro picked up his starting pitcher. Castro ripped a 1-1 pitch over Alonso’s head. Johnson and Soriano scored on Castro’s 49th and 50th RBI of the season.

With runners on second and third, one down and the Cubs up 7-2, Darwin Barney struck out swinging. Aramis Ramirez hit a sharp grounder to the hole at short. Renteria stopped the ball and tried to throw out Ramirez at first … but the throw was low and skipped past Votto. Soto and Castro scored on the infield hit and the Reds’ second error of the inning.

Carlos Pena crushed a 2-0 pitch from LeCure over Stubbs’ head in center. Ramirez scored and it was 10-2 Cubs.

Marlon Byrd’s rough day at the plate continued … Byrd grounded out to first to end the fifth.

Carlos Zambrano struggled with his command in the sixth. After Z retired Cairo on a groundout to short on a 3-2 pitch, Yonder Alonso hit the first homer of his big league career … a shot into the bleachers in left center.

Ramon Hernandez ripped a single into center on a 2-1 pitch. Fred Lewis hit a 2-2 pitch back up the box. Castro fielded the ball and stepped on second to force Hernandez. Z struck out Stubbs swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end his afternoon.

The offense got the run right back in the bottom of the sixth. Reed Johnson reached on a throwing error by the Reds’ third baseman. Frazier airmailed his throw across the diamond and Johnson ended up at second. Soriano walked on four pitcheshis second free pass of the game.

Following a Soto strikeout and a pop out by pinch-hitter Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro completed his day with an impressive at bat.

Starlin Castro fouled off eight straight pitches from Jose Arredondo before ripping a single into left on the 12th pitch. Reed Johnson scored … 11-3 Cubs. Barney popped out to second to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing against Nick Masset and Francisco Cordero in the seventh and eighth.

The Reds scored their fourth run off John Grabow in the top of the ninth. The most expensive mop-up man in the big leagues issued a one-out walk to the free-swinging Drew Stubbs. Stubbs advanced to second on defensive indifference. After Ryan Hanigan popped out to third, Joey Votto lined a 1-1 pitch into left. Votto’s first hit of the series plated Stubbs … 11-4 Cubs. Todd Frazier grounded out to third to end the game.

W-W-W-W-W-W-W …

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Randy Wells against Bronson Arroyo in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver