Red, White and a Cubs ‘W’ – Cubs 5, Braves 1

Game Eighty-One – Cubs 5, Braves 1
WP – Paul Maholm (6-6) LP – Randall Delgado (4-9) Save – None

wflag.jpgWednesday night’s win, the Cubs seventh in their last nine games, was a total team effort. Paul Maholm turned in a quality start. James Russell tossed two scoreless innings. Three different players hit longballs and the offense did the ‘little things‘ that led to two other runs. The defense was solid and Starlin Castro started two inning ending double plays but the play of the game belonged to Alfonso Soriano. Soriano threw out Chipper Jones at the plate to end the sixth and preserved the Cubs one-run lead.

Paul Maholm picked up his second straight victory after allowing one run on eight hits with a walk, a hit batsman and five strikeouts in six innings. Maholm labored at times (97 pitches, 64 for strikes) but was able to get out of jams with help from his defense. Starlin Castro was positioned perfectly twice in crucial situations and started two 6-3 inning ending double plays. Maholm was clinging to a one-run lead in the sixth when Alfonso Soriano made one of his better throws in several years to cut down Chipper Jones.

James Russell faced just one over the minimum in his two innings of work while the offense tacked on two in the seventh and put the game away in the eighth on Anthony Rizzo’s third home run of the season. Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect ninth with a pair of strikeouts, in a non-save situation.

Three different Cubs went yard Wednesday night in Atlanta. Bryan LaHair (2-for-3 with a home run and a walk) broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth with his 14th home run of the season, first since June 18. Jeff Baker hit for Paul Maholm in the seventh and cranked his second longball of the year. Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4 with a home run) lined his third homer of the season over the wall in right field in the eighth that capped the scoring on the night.

The Cubs posted their first victory on the 4th of July since 2008 and in the process clinched the season series over the Braves (4-2) with one left to play.

With Wednesday’s win, the Cubs improved to 31-50 at the halfway mark of the season …

The Cubs wasted a chance for a big first inning. After David DeJesus struck out swinging to start the game, Starlin Castro worked a walk (3-2 pitch). Anthony Rizzo singled to right on the first pitch he saw from Randall Delgado. Castro ended up at third with one down. After a 2-2 pitch to Soriano, Rizzo took off for second and David Ross threw him out. Castro broke for the plate as Ross’ throw went through and he scored the first run of the game.

Alfonso Soriano worked the count to 3-2 then ripped a double to left center. Bryan LaHair hit a 1-1 pitch too hard to right. Soriano did not test Heyward’s arm and held at third with two outs. Geovany Soto looked at a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. Delgado threw 25 pitches in the first, 14 for strikes.

Paul Maholm had a rough start to his night and was bailed out by the Cubs’ defensive alignment. Maholm had no problems getting ahead of hitters but could not put them away. Michael Bourn singled to right center (2-2 pitch) and Martin Prado singled to right (0-2 pitch). Maholm retired Jason Heyward on a flyout to center (1-2 pitch). Both runners held.

Chipper Jones picked up where he left off Tuesday night. Jones lifted the first pitch he saw into center for a single. DeJesus played the ball on the hop and the bases were loaded with one out. Maholm fell behind Freddie Freeman 2-0. Freeman grounded a 3-2 pitch back up the middle and right to a perfectly positioned Starlin Castro … 6-3 inning ending double play. Maholm threw 21 pitches in the first, 14 for strikes.

The bottom of the Cubs’ lineup did nothing in the second … 36 pitches for Delgado after two, 22 for strikes.

Paul Maholm set down the side in order in the second. Maholm struck out Dan Uggla and David Ross looking.

The Cubs did nothing in the third and were extreme aggressive against Randall Delgado (45 pitches after three, 28 for strikes).

The Braves got even in the bottom of the third. Maholm struck out Delgado to begin the inning. Michael Bourn drove a 2-1 pitch off the top of the wall in left center. The ball got away from DeJesus and Bourn ended up at third with one out. Martin Prado ripped a 0-1 pitch toward the hole at short. Valbuena tried to make a diving stop. The ball went off his glove but it would not have mattered, Bourn scored easily on the infield single.

Jason Heyward pulled a 1-1 pitch toward first that Rizzo fielded and threw to Castro to force Prado for the second out. Maholm struck out Chipper Jones swinging to end the inning … and ended Jones’ 6-for-6 streak against Cubs’ pitching. Maholm threw 53 pitches in the first three innings, 37 for strikes.

After three complete, the game was tied at one.

After Alfonso Soriano popped out to right to begin the fourth, Bryan LaHair launched a 2-0 pitch over the wall in right … LaHair’s 14th homer of the season and first since June 18 put the Cubs up 2-1. Geovany Soto lined out to a diving Freddie Freeman for the second out and Barney struck out swinging for the third out. The Cubs showed a little more patience against Delgado in the fourth (61, 38 strikes) and ran up his pitch count.

Paul Maholm faced the minimum in the fourth. Maholm walked Uggla with one out but David Ross hit into a 6-3 inning ending double play … the Cubs second of the game. Maholm threw 67 pitches in the first four innings, 45 for strikes.

Delgado made quick work of Valbuena (flyout to right, 0-2 pitch) and Maholm (swinging strikeout) to start the fifth. David DeJesus worked the count to 3-1 before reaching on a single to right. DeJesus took off for second on a 2-0 pitch to Castro. Delgado jammed Castro but he got enough of the pitch to bloop it into right for a single. DeJesus held at third. Anthony Rizzo smoked a 0-1 pitch right to Heyward to end the inning.

Maholm took the hill in the bottom of the fifth clinging to a 2-1 lead. Maholm retired Simmons on a grounder to short then struck out Delgado for the second out. Michael Bourn ripped a 1-0 pitch into left. Bourn reached second easily and was given a double … Soriano bobbled the ball slightly. Prado then hit a humpback liner into shallow center that DeJesus made a nice running catch on to end the inning. Maholm threw 80 pitches in five innings, 53 for strikes.

Delgado ended up facing the minimum in the sixth. Bryan LaHair worked a two-out walk but Geovany Soto rapped into a 5-4-3 inning ending double play … 89 pitches for Delgado after six, 57 for strikes.

Paul Maholm started the sixth and dodged a bullet when Jason Heyward flied out to deep right center (first pitch) to begin the inning. Chipper Jones pulled a 1-2 pitch into left for a single. Maholm then hit Freddie Freeman with a 0-1 pitch … and put the tying run into scoring position with one out. Dan Uggla flied out to hustling DeJesus in right center (2-2 pitch) for the second out.

David Ross stepped in with two on and two out and ripped a 2-2 pitch into left. Soriano fielded the ball and came up throwing. Soriano threw a strike, in the air, to Soto and cut down Chipper Jones at the plate.

After six, the Cubs led 2-1.

Darwin Barney led off the seventh and pulled a 1-0 pitch into the gap in left center. The ball rolled to the wall and Barney ended up at second with a double. Fredi Gonzalez made the slow walk and replaced Delgado with lefty Jonny Venters.

While it will not show in the box score, Luis Valbuena did his job. Valbuena grounded out to second and Barney advanced to third … then scored when Venters’ first pitch to pinch-hitter Jeff Baker got past David Ross. The Cubs took a brief 3-1 lead.

Jeff Baker, who was hitting for Maholm, launched Venters next pitch down the left field line. The ball stayed fair and the Cubs’ took a 4-1 lead on Baker’s second pinch-hit homer of the season (Cubs’ sixth pinch-hit homer of the year). DeJesus grounded out to short and Gonzalez went back to his pen for Chad Durbin. Castro looked at a 0-2 pitch from Durbin to end the inning.

James Russell set down the side in order in the seventh … and after seven, the Cubs led 4-1.

Anthony Varvaro took over for the Braves in the eighth and Anthony Rizzo greeted him by lining his second pitch over the wall in right. The ball got out quickly and the Cubs took a 5-1 lead. Alfonso Soriano fouled out to Freeman, who made an excellent catch as he fell over the railing and into the Braves’ dugout. LaHair struck out swinging and Soto looked at a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Tony Campana took over in center, DeJesus moved to right and Russell stayed in to start the eighth. Other than a one-out walk by Heyward, Russell took care of the Braves and the game went to the ninth with the Cubs up 5-1.

The Cubs did nothing against Anthony Varvaro in the ninth.

Carlos Marmol, in a non-save situation, struck out Dan Uggla (swinging) and David Ross (looking) to begin the inning … then Andrelton Simmons popped out to Darwin Barney to end the game.

Wednesday’s win guaranteed the Cubs a winning mark in the season series against the Braves (4-2) with one game left to play.

The Cubs have won seven of their last nine.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Matt Garza will face lefty Mike Minor in the series and season finale on Thursday night.

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