Cubs Beat the Braves by LaHair – Cubs 1, Braves 0

Game Thirty-One – Cubs 1, Braves 0
WP – Paul Maholm (4-2) LP – Tim Hudson (1-1) Save – Rafael Dolis (3)

wflag.jpgPitching, defense and timely hitting win ballgames and Sveum’s Cubs found the right mix of all three in Wednesday’s shutout victory over the Braves.

Paul Maholm picked up where Jeff Samardzija and Ryan Dempster left off. Maholm tossed seven innings of scoreless ball and limited the high-powered Braves’ offense to just three hits. Maholm walked three and struck out three on 95 pitches, 64 for strikes. Maholm kept everything down Wednesday. Of the 21 outs Maholm recorded, 15 were on the ground and another one of the keys to Maholm’s success Wednesday was he retired the leadoff hitter in each of his seven innings.

After a miserable start, Paul Maholm has won his last four starts while defeating the likes of Roy Halladay, Chad Billingsley and Tim Hudson in the process.

James Russell (no runs on one hit with a walk and a strikeout) pitched his way out of a two-out jam in the eighth and Rafael Dolis sat down Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann in order in the ninth (14 pitches, nine for strikes) for his third save of the season.

Cubs’ pitching did an excellent job in the series win over the Braves. Atlanta scored 29 runs last weekend in three games in Colorado and Sveum’s staff held them to four runs (starters allowed two runs) in 27 innings. Wednesday was the Cubs 19th quality start in 31 games.

The Cubs defensive positioning once again played a huge role. Paul Maholm pitched to his defense but balls that were hits in years past continued being loud outs on Wednesday.

Bryan LaHair (2-for-3 with a RBI) delivered the big hit again, a two-out single against the shift in the seventh that plated David DeJesus (1-for-3 with a run scored) with the game’s only run. LaHair notched his first hit leading off the second that ran his streak to 27 games in which he has reached base safely via a hit or a walk.

The Cubs were very aggressive against Tim Hudson and allowed him to throw only 73 pitches, 51 for strikes, in seven innings. Only two Cubs reached third base Wednesday … one scored and the other was thrown out at home trying to stretch a triple into an inside the park home run. Starlin Castro (1-for-3 with a triple) was thrown out at the plate to end the fourth. Darwin Barney (1-for-3) managed the Cubs only other hit as the offense tallied five hits and finished the game 1-for-2 with runners in scoring position and left one on base.

The Cubs finished the homestand with a 4-2 record against the Dodgers and Braves and beat Tim Hudson for the first time (2-1). The Cubs have now won or tied their last five series and are 9-6 in their last 15 games.

With Wednesday’s win, the Cubs are 13-18 on the season …

Paul Maholm came out throwing strikes Wednesday afternoon. Maholm gave up a two-out single to Freddie Freeman in the first, but that was all. Maholm threw nine pitches in the first, seven for strikes.

Tim Hudson also threw nine pitches, seven for strikes, in the first … but he retired the Cubs in order.

Starlin Castro took a hit away from Chipper Jones to start the second. The Cubs’ defensive positioning took more hits away from Jones in his last game at Wrigley. Maholm then retired Heyward and struck out David Ross swinging to end the second.

Bryan LaHair led off the second with a single to center. Tim Hudson ended up facing the minimum after Ian Stewart grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and Geovany Soto grounded out to short for the third out.

Maholm sat down the Braves in order in the third. After three, Maholm had faced only one over the minimum.

The Cubs did nothing in the bottom of the third.

The Braves started putting together long at bats against Maholm in the fourth. Martin Prado grounded out to second to start the inning (3-2 pitch). Freeman walked (3-2 pitch) but Dan Uggla hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the fourth.

Tim Hudson made quick work of DeJesus and Campana to start the bottom of the fourth. Starlin Castro then ripped a 0-2 pitch into right. Jason Heyward tried to make a diving catch but came up short. The ball hit off the side wall and ricocheted back into the field and ended up rolling all the way to the ivy. Castro rounded the bases after a slow start. Pat Listach waved him in but Heyward made a perfect throw to Dan Uggla. Uggla’s throw was up the third baseline but in plenty of time to nail Castro before he had a chance to slide. Castro ended up with his most ho-hum triple of the season for his effort.

After four, there was still no score.

Chipper Jones grounded out to Barney in the shift to start the fifth. Maholm then walked Jason Heyward. David Ross hit a high fly into center that Campana lost. The ball fell in, Ross ended up with a single and the Braves appeared to be in business. With runners on first and second with one out, Jack Wilson fouled out to LaHair and Hudson grounded out to LaHair to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing, quickly, in the fifth.

After Michael Bourn grounded out to short to start the sixth, Martin Prado ripped a double down the right field line. Freeman grounded out to second, Prado advanced to third with two down. Maholm then walked Dan Uggla.

Chipper Jones lined out to Darwin Barney, in the shift, to end the sixth. Maholm threw 88 pitches in six innings, 58 for strikes.

Adrian Cardenas led off the Cubs’ sixth by grounding out to second. Darwin Barney reached on a single to center but after a meeting with Listach, Paul Maholm swung away and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Paul Maholm retired Heyward, Ross and Wilson in order in the top of the seventh.

David DeJesus led off the seventh with a single to left center. Tony Campana bunted him to second. Starlin Castro hit Hudson’s first pitch to Freeman. DeJesus ended up at third with two outs.

Bryan LaHair hit the first pitch past Jack Wilson and into left center. DeJesus scored … 1-0 Cubs. LaHair beat the shift and put his team on the board. Stewart grounded out to second (2-2 pitch) to end the inning.

After seven, the Cubs led 1-0.

Paul Maholm took the hill to start the eighth. After Fredi Gonzalez committed to Tyler Pastornicky, Dale Sveum made his way to the mound. Maholm was lifted, left to a loud ovation and James Russell took over.

Russell retired Pastornicky (struck out swinging) and Bourn (grounded out to second) but Martin Prado pulled a 1-2 pitch past Stewart into left. Russell then walked Freddie Freeman. Sveum left Russell into face Dan Uggla with runners on first and second with two outs. Uggla flied out to right to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing against Kris Medlen in the eighth.

Rafael Dolis took the hill to start the ninth with a 1-0 lead. Chipper Jones flied out to left (3-2 pitch) in his last at bat at Wrigley. Jason Heyward grounded out to third (0-1 pitch). Brian McCann hit for David Ross and grounded out to short (2-2 pitch) for the 27th out … Cubs Win!

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Thursday is an off day for Sveum’s Cubs. The Cubs begin a five-game road trip Friday night in Milwaukee … Matt Garza is scheduled to face Randy Wolf in game one.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"The riches of the game are in the thrills, not in the money." – Ernie Banks

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  • Texcubnut

    Neil, great headline and great summary to the ballgame. It was an outstanding homestand for our Cubbies and like March, my hope is springing eternal.

  • paulcatanese

    Can’t think of a comeback to you’re headline, you got me, good report.

    I couldn’t watch the game today, but did look the highlights up, great game. So if I have it right, DeJesus singled, Campana bunted him to second and Castro(produtive out) moved him th third and LaHair singled to drive him in.
    Just the way it’s drawn up. And Campana was in on the scoring again, its getting to be a habit with him over the last 10 gaames or so.

  • Neil

    Thanks guys … Tex it is good seeing them playing better ball.

  • Zonk

    Good headline!

      I think all of us guys should start a LaHair fan club, guys only.  We can call it LaHair Club for Men.

  • brent carmona

    Looks like epstein found his David ortiz.

    Wait small sample size I know. But like Brian said, how can you not root for this guy?

    Good recap Neil, keep up the nice work, as always

  • Aaron


    I don’t have the time to look right now, but off hand, do you remember any 1-0 wins by the Cubs last year?

    That is about as good as it gets..seriously. They have been so dreadful in 1 run games in recent years, so this is definitely a positive sign.

    Having said that, if not for Wood and Marmol, the Cubs would be 5 games over .500  Think on that for a minute…..Even given how awful this team is on paper offensively, they’d still be that good.

    18-13 vs 13-18….WOW. And what’s even more encouraging is Marmol has been banished for several games now, versus a one game hiatus that would’ve occurred under Piniella or Quade, so I’m liking that as well.

    And they FINALLY cut ties with DeWitt (though I’m still not convinced he’s gone for good). So far Cardenas is making me look bad for the props I gave him, but like Castillo, given more AB’s, he’ll probably swing out of it.

    Now…to just cut ties with Baker, Johnson, Soriano, and Soto (once Clevenger recovers)….and the retooling would be well on its way. 

    Neil, I was also wondering your thoughts on Marmol as a starter. Check this out: 

    LIke I said the other day, Dempster and Samardzija are other great examples of how strikeout artists that struggle with walks in the pen can make the conversion back to starting. My theory behind that is the relief appearances actually build up arm strength, because you have to be ready to go on a daily basis, but that’s just my opinion.

    • Neil

      Aaron, I remembered one 1-0 win last year, I went back and looked and there were three, all pretty early in the season.

      I, like you, remember Marmol starting games in 2006 for Dusty. If memory serves, Marmol would have one bad inning in the five or six innings he would make every start.

      I would not have a problem with them trying to make him a starter again. As you pointed out, it could work. That is something they would obviously have to do in the off-season, plus it would take a commitment from him that I’m not sure would be there.

      Did you see the note I posted for you last night? I thought you would like to see that.

      • Aaron

        Was it about the Cubs shifting defense around, etc?

        • Neil

          From Tuesday …

          Aaron, more from last night. Thought you might find this interesting. From Levine’ chat today

          “I think the Cubs coaching staff prepares their team as well as any in baseball. I’m tremendously impressed Sveum and his coaches and how they transfer information to their players and teach at this level. Also, the information that the front office provides to the coaching staff and players on a daily basis is impressive. After each game there is a printout waiting for each player on the next day’s pitcher and potential starting lineup that the Cubs players can get a head start on before they come to the park.”

    • paulcatanese

      Aaron, I’d like to toss something in here. I like you’re idea of Marmol becoming a starter. I think he could handle it a lot better than as a closer.
      Right now he’s snakebit and so on edge as a reliever and knowing he has little or no room for error and then not doing the job compounds the problem.
      Being a starter for him would be a breeze for him compared to what he feels inside now. I think you have a great idea there, he certainly could not do any worse, and if he does, it still gives innings for the Cubs to make it up. Good thought.

    • brent carmona

      Aaron, I like the idea, but marmol has no feel for his slider for well over a year now. Yes his fastball velocity is back up this season from last year, however his slider has been complete garbage for quite a few appearances. The only strikeouts he has got on his slide piece has been on borderline strike looking calls, and as far as swinging strikes on the slider I have rarely seen. He must find that ‘devastating’ hook again on his slider to be the dominant guy he once was. Until then, I think he is just a seventh inning guy.

    • GaryLeeT

       Maybe he would accept a minor league assignment to work on that. I was trying to remember if there were ever any starters with mechanics as poor as Marmol’s, who had any kind of long term success, but could not think of any, off the top of my head.

    • Chadaudio

      Interesting thought Aaron.

      I just don’t think Marmol has enough pitches to succeed as a starter does he?  I mean, he basically only has two pitches – right?  I don’t know, interesting idea – yes.  But, probably wouldn’t work.

      Cardenas: He doesn’t have a lot to show for it, but it seems he is putting together some good at-bats.  He’s hit the ball hard, and has looked pretty good at the plate (much better then Byrd did).

      Castillo: I’m a bit worried about this guy.  Small sample size, yes, but he just looks lost on defense and offense.  I’m worried because he looked like this when called up last year too.  At first I was like, “Shoot Castillo can hit .180 (what Soto  hits)”.  But now, I’m not so sure.

  • Wes Renne

    I am very pleased with the performance of this team, the one thing I wasn’t expecting was for them to be so entertaining.  They run every chance they get, consistently move the runner over, pitch to contact (except for marmol) throw to the cutoff man.  Just playin some good ole hustlin baseball and winning games.  Love Garza, Samardzija, Demps and Paul as a 1-4, throw in Castro LaHair Dolis Russel and you have a good mix of young talent.

    That list doesn’t include BJax or Rizzo

  • J Daniel

    We all love Maholm now – but 3 weeks ago – go back and look at the posts – everyone wanted him released and gone!  This MESS was not made overnight and will take awhile to clean up.  I actually have thought Theo and boys are doing a wonderful job of it.

    Maybe a couple of situations we would all scratch our head at – the DeWitt one is a perfect example.  But these guys are not afraid to make a change.  Remember, it is a marathon, not a sprint.  Some of their moves are starting to look good.

    I am not on the Maholm bandwagon and he may revert back.  Maybe he remains good and they trade him?  Who knows what their plan is?  I know Bruce Lavine does not know, lol!

    I for one am going to take the approach that they have done it before in a similar situation and am giving time.

    Did you all want JH to remain?  

    Baker, Soriano, Soto, . . . will be gone, just give it a little time.

    If Dempster keeps pitching this well he might bring a couple of really good prospects.

    If Garza keeps pitching well he might bring a couple of REALLY good major league ready prospects.

    LaHair looks like a great move but time will tell.  Smardjza looks like a great move but time will tell.  Not going crazy on either yet, it is still May.  Might need better than Stewart at third but he rakes it unlike Aram.

    Give it some time and enjoy the process!

    • GaryLeeT

      You had me until the trading Garza part. I am still trying to understand the reasoning behind trading Garza. If you already have great, why trade for potentially great?

      • J Daniel

        I wouldn’t trade him – I just think they will, especially if not signed, at the deadline to a team that is desperate.  Right now they are in the mode of acquiring as many young controllable prospects as they can.

  • Steve Rock-vegas

    This is four series in a row now that the Cubs have either won or split, against four good NL teams.  Theo and team have a plan, are sticking to it, and it’s coming around.  If they could dump ALL the dead weight on someone, they’d do it in a heartbeat, but they have to play the cards they had and move them all once it makes sense.  I’m as anxious as anyone to see Soriano, Soto, Baker and others gone, but have faith they know that also and are working it smart knowing this year isn’t a WS year.  I love Sveaum’s managing so far and feel he’s the perfect manager to win long term with the club being built the right way.  I gues you could say Team Theo is “winning big on the cheap” now (to quote a famous poster)   :)

    • J Daniel

      Let’s not get to excited yet – 14-18 is not exactly winning.  If they had this record with JH everyone would be going after their heads.

      I do love what is going on but everyone needs to only sip the kool aid – don’t drink to much yet.

    • paulcatanese

      Well I will admit, the Cubs are the best looking last place team I have seen in many years, a lot of fun to watch.

  • GaryLeeT

    At 22 years old, Castro has almost 400 hits in just 2 years of playing time. By my calculations, and barring injuries, he should be able to challenge Cobb’s record of being the youngest to 3000 hits at age 34.