Game Seventy-Six – Cubs 4, Astros 0
WP – Paul Maholm (5-6) LP – Bud Norris (5-5) Save – Carlos Marmol (6)
The Cubs bounced back nicely from Wednesday’s debacle and improved to 3-1 on the homestand. After a 55 minute rain delay at the start of the game, the Cubs topped the Astros for the first time this season (1-3) behind three longballs and a tremendous outing from Paul Maholm.
Paul Maholm not only put together his best out of the season but he came within two outs of tossing his first complete game shutout in over a year (May 28, 2010 versus the Cubs at Wrigley). Maholm attacked the strike zone all afternoon (98 pitches, 67 strikes) and faced two over the minimum through seven innings. Dale Sveum sent him out for the ninth after the veteran lefty had allowed only two hits on 91 pitches through eight innings. Maholm gave up a leadoff single to Brian Bixler then retired Brian Bogusevic on a fly out to right. But after a Carlos Lee double put runners on second and third with one out, Sveum lifted Maholm and called on Carlos Marmol to close it out.
Carlos Marmol picked up his sixth save of the season but not before loading the bases. Marmol caught J.D. Martinez looking for the second out then hit Chris Snyder with the first pitch. Marmol quickly fell behind Chris Johnson 2-0. After a called strike and a foul ball evened the count, Chris Johnson lined out to Luis Valbuena to end the game.
Paul Maholm picked up his first win since May 9 in the 200th start of his career. Maholm tossed a season-high 8 1/3 innings of four-hit shutout ball with one walk, a hit batsman and six strikeouts.
The Cubs’ offense played longball Friday afternoon at the old ballyard. All four of the Cubs’ runs scored via a home run. Luis Valbuena (1-for-3 with a home run) put his team on the board with his third homer as a Cub in the second inning. Steve Clevenger (1-for-3 with a home run and two RBI) gave his battery mate a little breathing room in the fourth. Clevenger’s two-run shot, the first of his big league career, put the Cubs up by three. Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4 with a home run) launched his 15th of the season, a blast onto Waveland in the sixth inning.
Bryan LaHair (3-for-4 with a run scored) had a three-hit game and David DeJesus (2-for-4) added a pair of singles. The Cubs managed nine hits, three home runs, two walks and finished the day 0-for-3 with RISP and left six on base.
With Friday’s win, the Cubs improved to 27-49 on the season … After a 55-minute delay, Paul Maholm wasted no time disposing of the Astros in the opening frame. Maholm set down the Astros in order with a pair of strikeouts on 14 pitches, nine for strikes.
Bud Norris made quick work of David DeJesus and struck out Starlin Castro in his first action since June 12. Anthony Rizzo then took a questionable 2-2 pitch for ball three before walking and extending the inning for Alfonso Soriano. Soriano hit a routine popup to Matt Downs at second that the Astros’ second baseman lost in the sun. Rizzo ended up a third with two down. Bryan LaHair grounded out to short on Norris’ 20th pitch of the inning (11 strikes).
Paul Maholm retired the Astros in order in the second (22 pitches, 15 strikes, for Maholm after two).
Steve Clevenger grounded out and Darwin Barney popped out to center to begin the Cubs’ second inning. Norris then fell behind Valbuena 2-0. Luis Valbuena drove Norris’ next pitch to the opposite field … and the ball ended up in the bleachers in left center. Maholm popped out to short to end the inning (35 pitches, 21 strikes for Norris).
After two complete, the Cubs led 1-0.
Paul Maholm was able to wiggle his way out of a jam in the third … with a little help from the Astros. Maholm plunked Matt Downs with a 1-2 pitch to begin the frame. Jordan Schafer then blooped a 0-1 pitch down the left field line. Downs misread it and had to stop at second. Bud Norris stepped in with two on, no outs and trailing by one. Norris failed to get the bunt down on the first pitch then bunted through the second. Downs took off for third on what appeared to be a botched delayed steal. Steve Clevenger threw a strike to Valbuena and nailed Downs for the first out. Maholm struck out Norris on a pitch in the dirt. Schafer took second on what was ruled a wild pitch.
Starlin Castro then saved a run with a tremendous play. Bixler hit a 0-1 pitch back up the box that Castro fielded, made a complete turn and threw a strike to Rizzo just in time to nail Bixler and end the inning. Maholm went into cruise control after the third (37 pitches for Maholm after three, 27 strikes).
The Cubs did nothing in the third (43 pitches for Norris, 27 for strikes).
Maholm set down Houston in order in the fourth … 46 pitches for Maholm after four, 32 strikes.
Alfonso Soriano popped out to right to begin the Cubs’ fourth. Norris then fell behind LaHair 3-0. Sveum gave LaHair the green light on the 3-0 pitch and Bryan LaHair responded with a single to center. Steve Clevenger launched a 1-2 pitch onto the Budweiser Patio beyond the right field wall. Clevenger’s two-run shot, the first home run of his big league career, gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Norris retired Barney (pop out to short) and Valbuena (flyout to center) to end the inning.
After four, the Cubs led 3-0.
It was 1-2-3 for Maholm in the fifth. Maholm struck out two of the three batters he faced (58, 39 for strikes, after five for Maholm).
After Maholm grounded out to second to start the fifth, David DeJesus singled to right. Sveum called a hit and run on the first pitch to Castro. DeJesus advanced to second when Castro grounded out to first … but Anthony Rizzo popped the first pitch he saw behind the plate and Snyder hauled it in to end the inning.
Jordan Schafer tried to bunt his way on to start the sixth. Schafer bunted right back to Maholm for the first out. The Cubs’ issues with getting out the opposing pitcher continued. Maholm walked Norris on four pitches … the ninth time this season the Cubs have walked the opposing pitcher.
With the Cubs up 3-0, David DeJesus made a game-changing catch in left center. Brian Bixler launched a 1-1 pitch into the gap. DeJesus made a leaping grab just before hitting the ivy. Norris had rounded second when DeJesus caught the ball. Norris retouched second and scampered back to first. Starlin Castro got the ball from DeJesus but his relay to first was low and got past Rizzo. The ball ended up in the stands for a two-base error. With Norris at third, Brian Bogusevic flied out to right to end the inning (69 pitches for Maholm after six, 44 strikes).
Alfonso Soriano led off the sixth with a mammoth home run. Soriano launched a 2-1 pitch from Norris, his 15th of the season, that ended up on Waveland Avenue … 4-0 Cubs. LaHair reached on an infield single but was doubled up when Clevenger grounded into a 4-3 double play. Darwin Barney lined out to third to end the inning … and Norris’ outing (87 pitches, 56 strikes).
After six, the Cubs led 4-0.
Paul Maholm retired the Astros in order on just five pitches in the seventh (74, 48 for strikes, after seven).
Other than a two-out single by David DeJesus, the Cubs did nothing in the seventh against Fernando Abad.
Paul Maholm struck out Chris Johnson to start the eighth. Matt Downs then singled to left center, just the second hit off Maholm … but Jordan Schafer (flyout to left) and pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie (flyout to right) made two quick outs to end the inning. Maholm needed just 91 pitches, 61 for strikes, to get through eight innings.
Rhiner Cruz took over for the Astros in the bottom of the eighth. Rizzo grounded out to first and Soriano struck out swinging. Bryan LaHair blooped a single into left, his third hit of the game (1-2 pitch). Tony Campana ran for LaHair and swiped second on the first pitch to Clevenger. Steve Clevenger ended up walking but Darwin Barney lined out to short to end the inning.
The Cubs went to the ninth with a 4-0 lead …
Paul Maholm gave up a leadoff single to Brian Bixler then retired Brian Bogusevic on a flyout to left. Carlos Lee stepped in and pulled a 1-2 pitch down the third baseline. The ball boy thought it was foul and touched the ball. The umps called interference. Lee was given a double, Bixler held at third and Dale Sveum made a call to the pen.
Carlos Marmol took over for Maholm and struck out J.D. Martinez looking. Chris Snyder then stepped in and Marmol hit him with the first pitch. Brad Mills sent Dallas Keuchel into run for Snyder.
With the bases loaded, two-down and the Cubs up by four, Chris Johnson lined out to third (2-2 pitch) to end the game.
Matt Garza is scheduled to face lefty J.A. Happ on Saturday afternoon.
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