Rizzo and Castro Lift the Cubs Past the ‘Stros – Cubs 3, Astros 2

Game Seventy-Seven – Cubs 3, Astros 2
WP – Matt Garza (4-6) LP – J.A. Happ (6-8) Save – Carlos Marmol (7)

wflag.jpgThe two youngest players on the roster delivered Saturday afternoon and led their team to the second straight victory over the Astros.

Starlin Castro (1-for-2 with a RBI, a run scored and two walks) drove in the Cubs’ first run with a two-out single in the fifth … and was on board for Anthony Rizzo’s first longball in a Cubs’ uniform.

Anthony Rizzo (1-for-4 with a home run) crushed a 1-0 pitch from lefty J.A. Happ. Rizzo’s towering drive to right gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead (Rizzo’s second game winning RBI in four games) and the bullpen was able to preserve the win for Matt Garza.

Matt Garza labored through a short outing Saturday afternoon. Garza could not put hitters away, ran up his pitch count (104, 69 for strikes) and left with the tying run on base and one out in the sixth. The Cubs defense and bad baserunning from the Astros helped bail Garza out of trouble. The Astros put the leadoff runner on base in four of the six innings Garza started. Garza allowed two runs on nine hits with three walks and a strikeout (struck out Happ in the third inning) in 5 1/3 innings.

The Cubs’ pen allowed just one hit and a walk over the last 3 2/3 innings. Scott Maine and Manny Corpas recorded the last two outs in the sixth. James Russell retired the side in order on just eight pitches in the seventh. Shawn Camp pitched a perfect eighth and Carlos Marmol struck out two of the four batters he faced in the ninth to close it out.

The Cubs defense really stepped up Saturday afternoon. The Cubs turned three double plays, Geovany Soto threw out Jordan Schafer trying to steal second in the first inning … and Anthony Rizzo made arguably the defensive play of the game in the third inning. With one already in and runners on first and third, Anthony Rizzo fielded a grounder off the bat of Jed Lowrie, threw a strike to Geovany Soto and cut down Scott Moore for the second out of the inning.

The Cubs’ offense did just enough Saturday afternoon. J.A. Happ had his way with the lineup early on. Happ struck out five of the first nine batters he faced. The Cubs did work the count, and it paid off in the sixth.

Luis Valbuena (0-for-3 with a run scored and a walk) led off the Cubs’ three-run sixth with a walk and scored the Cubs’ first run. Geovany Soto (2-for-3 with a double and a walk) added a pair of hits and both Darwin Barney (1-for-4) and Reed Johnson (1-for-1 with a double) collected hits. The Cubs wasted chances in the sixth and seventh innings to tack on and finished the game 1-for-9 with RISP and left eight runners on base.

The Cubs posted back-to-back series wins for only the second time this season (May 4 – May 9 against the Dodgers and Braves) and Saturday’s victory also guaranteed the Cubs a winning homestand.

With Saturday’s victory (5-17 versus lefties), the Cubs finished June with a 10-17 record and improved to 28-49 on the season …

Matt Garza set the tone for his outing with the first batter he faced. Garza walked Jordan Schafer on nine pitches. Garza could not put him away. With Lowrie at the plate, Schafer took off for second and Geovany Soto threw him out. Jed Lowrie flied out to left and Carlos Lee tapped back to Garza to end the inning.

Garza threw 19 pitches, 11 for strikes, in the first … and it was obvious in the first inning that Saturday was going to be a short outing for Matt Garza.

The Cubs did not put a single ball in play in the first against J.A. Happ. David DeJesus struck out swinging, Starlin Castro walked (third walk of the homestand for Castro), Anthony Rizzo looked at a 3-2 pitch and Alfonso Soriano struck out swinging. The Cubs worked the count and ran up Happ’s pitch count … 21 pitches, 11 strikes, for Happ in the first.

Garza ended up facing the minimum in the second. Brian Bogusevic tapped back to Garza (2-1 pitch) for the first out. Chris Johnson reached on an infield single to short. Castro stumbled after he fielded the ball and Johnson beat Castro’s throw to first. Jason Castro ripped a 0-1 pitch toward Barney that was turned into a 4-6-3 inning ending double play. Garza threw 28 pitches, 17 for strikes, in first two innings.

Bryan LaHair put together a nine-pitch at bat that ended with a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch. Geovany Soto pulled Happ’s first pitch into left; the Cubs first hit of the game … but Darwin Barney flied out to center and Luis Valbuena grounded out to short to end the inning (39 pitches for Happ after two, 24 for strikes).

The Astros broke through in the third after J.D. Martinez singled to right to start the inning and Scott Moore reached down and pulled a double into right. Garza fell behind Moore 3-1 before the former Cub lifted a ball past LaHair in right. With the infield in and runners on second and third, Garza struck out Happ (first strikeout of the game for Garza) for the first out.

Sveum left his infield in for Jordan Schafer. Garza made a mistake on a 0-2 pitch. Soto wanted the pitch up and out of the zone, Garza did not hit his spot and Schafer drove the ball past a diving Castro. Martinez scored, 1-0 Astros. With runners on first and third with one down, Jed Lowrie hit a grounder toward first. Anthony Rizzo fielded the ball and threw a sidearm strike to the plate. Soto just had to catch the ball and apply the tag … and he did. With runners on first and second with two outs, Carlos Lee grounded out to third (2-2 pitch) to end the inning … a very high 53 pitches for Garza after three, 35 for strikes.

J.A. Happ faced the minimum in the third after he struck out Garza, walked David DeJesus and Starlin Castro hit into a 6-4-3 double play on a 3-2 pitch.

Garza’s inability to put hitters away hurt him again in the fourth. Brian Bogusevic put together an 11-pitch at bat that ended with a leadoff walk. Chris Johnson singled to right on a 1-2 pitch. With runners on first and second with no outs, Jason Castro hit a 2-1 pitch toward third. Luis Valbuena fielded the ball, then bobbled it, but was able to recover. Valbuena stepped on third and threw to first to complete the 5-3 double play. Johnson stopped at second with two down.

J.D. Martinez blooped Garza’s first pitch just out of the reach of a leaping Darwin Barney (in the shift). Johnson scored, 2-0 Astros. Scott Moore ripped a 2-2 pitch into left center. DeJesus fielded the ball and got in back in quickly. J.D. Martinez rounded the bag too far and could not get back. Castro took the throw from DeJesus, tossed to Barney and he applied the tag to end the inning (8-6-4). Garza tossed 78 pitches in the first four innings, 51 for strikes.

Alfonso Soriano collected the Cubs’ second hit with one out in the fourth. After Rizzo flied out to the track in left center to start the inning, Soriano singled to left center then advanced to second when Bryan LaHair (3-2 pitch, ninth pitch of the at bat) hit a weak grounder under a diving Carlos Lee. Scott Moore fielded the ball and threw to Happ just ahead of LaHair. Happ walked Soto on four pitches to put runners on first and second with two out. Jed Lowrie then took a hit and a RBI from Darwin Barney. Barney ripped a 2-1 pitch back up the middle. Lowrie made a diving stop and made a backhanded toss to Moore just ahead of a sliding Soto at second to end the inning … 78 pitches for Happ after four, 47 for strikes.

Matt Garza continued his struggles in the fifth. J.A. Happ led off the inning with a single to left. Jordan Schafer flied out to right (0-2 pitch). Lowrie then dropped a bunt on the third base side of the mound. Garza slipped and fell awkwardly on his right elbow. Garza stayed in the game after a brief visit from Mark O’Neal and Dale Sveum.

Carlos Lee hit 1-2 pitch back up the middle that Barney fielded, stumbled as he ran toward second but kept his balance, touched the bag and threw to first to complete the Cubs’ third double play of the game … 97 pitches for Garza after five, 58 for strikes.

Luis Valbuena walked on five pitches to start the fifth. Matt Garza dropped down a bunt and advanced Valbuena into scoring position with one out. David DeJesus grounded out to third, Valbuena could not advance.

Starlin Castro pounded a 0-1 pitch into right. Valbuena rounded third and scored as Carlos Lee cut Bogusevic’s throw off and Valbuena scored the Cubs’ first run.

Anthony Rizzo stepped in and crushed a 1-0 pitch from J.A. Happ. Rizzo hit a towering homer over the wall in right and gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. Alfonso Soriano struck out swinging to end the inning.

After five, the Cubs led 3-2.

Matt Garza retired Brian Bogusevic on a pop out to shallow left that Castro ran into the outfield to catch. Garza then walked Chris Johnson … and ended his afternoon.

Dale Sveum went to his pen for Scott Maine. Jason Castro lashed a 1-1 pitch into left. Johnson, with the play in front of him, rounded second and headed to third. Alfonso Soriano threw a strike to Valbuena. Johnson was called out but replays showed the Cubs caught a break. With Castro at second, Sveum went back to his pen and brought in Manny Corpas to face J.D. Martinez. Corpas struck out Martinez swinging to end the inning.

The Cubs wasted a chance to tack on against J.A. Happ in the sixth. LaHair grounded out to Carlos Lee (seventh pitch) to start the inning. Geovany Soto ripped Happ’s first pitch off the wall in left (just under the basket). Soto held at second with a double … but Barney popped out to right center and Valbuena grounded out to short for the third out.

James Russell set down the Astros in order in the seventh on just eight pitches, seven strikes.

Fernando Abad started the seventh and Reed Johnson greeted him with a double into the right field corner (2-2 pitch). David DeJesus tried to bunt Johnson to third, failed but still advanced him to third when he grounded out to Carlos Lee. Starlin Castro looked at two straight out of the zone before Brad Mills decided just to walk him … first time since September 21, 2011 that Castro walked twice in the same game.

Anthony Rizzo stepped in with runners on first and third with only one out. Rizzo chased a 1-2 pitch that was low and outside for the second out. Alfonso Soriano swung and missed at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

Shawn Camp retired Houston in order in the eighth.

Fernando Abad retired Tony Campana on a grounder to second to start the eighth. Brad Mills then went to his pen and brought in David Carpenter to face Geovany Soto. Soto grounded out to second (1-2 pitch). Darwin Barney blooped a 0-1 pitch into left center. Jordan Schafer could not make the catch, Barney hustled out of the box and reached second on a single and E8. Luis Valbuena flied out to center to end the inning.

The Cubs went to the ninth with a 3-2 lead …

Carlos Marmol caught Chris Johnson looking at a 0-2 pitch for the first out. Jason Castro walked (3-2) and J.D. Martinez stepped in. Martinez flied out to right (0-1 pitch) for the second out … and Scott Moore struck out swinging on a ball in the dirt (2-2 pitch) to end the game.

That is four out of five for the Chicago Cubs …

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Travis Wood is scheduled to face Wandy Rodriguez in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.

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